chapter  1
Editors’ Introduction
Pages 10

With these words, James Tully identifies one of the key tensions at the heart of global politics today. While freedom and democracy are often understood as emancipatory ideals, their prevailing instantiations provide the very language and institutions through which imperial power relations operate today. ‘Imperialism’ is understood here in a broad sense, as a web of global power relations, built over the course of the last 500 years, which establishes a number of deep disparities between Global North and Global South through a multiplicity of practices of dispossession, exploitation, environmental destruction, dependency and inequality. If freedom and democracy serve a double function of not only challenging and critiquing such practices, but also of facilitating and legitimating them, then what does it mean to struggle for freedom and democracy in our contemporary imperial context? Or, as Wendy Brown puts it, at a time when ‘we are all democrats now’—when democracy stands both for and against imperialism-‘what possibilities are there, in theory and practice, for resurrecting or rehabilitating the radical promise and potential of democracy? Alternatively, given the disrepair and misuse into which it has fallen, ought democracy to be abandoned for other visions and practices of popular justice and shared power?’1