ABSTRACT

While the previous chapter develops a general theory of post-democracy, this chapter explores the ways in which both democratic and post-democratic theorists have approached the problem of mass political powerlessness. In particular, this chapter focuses on two distinct approaches: democratic idealism and democratic realism. While the former treats post-democracy as a practical problem, one to be overcome through political activism and reform, the latter treats it as a conceptual misunderstanding, one predicated on a confused account of what democracy really is. In their exclusive focus on either repairing or explaining democracy’s absence, neither approach is able to confront the far-reaching consequences of post-democracy for democratic assumptions about legitimacy, membership, responsibility, and culpability. This then necessitates a new approach, one which more directly confronts the conditions of post-democratic life, treating them as persistent features of contemporary politics.