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Democracy Against the State. Marx and the Machiavellian Movement

  • ID: 4433474
  • Book
  • December 2010
  • Region: Global
  • 200 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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In the
Critique of Hegel′s Philosophy of Right, the young Marx elliptically alludes to a "true democracy" whose advent would go hand in hand with the disappearance of the state. Miguel Abensour′s rigorous interpretation of this seminal text reveals an "unknown Marx" who undermines the identification of democracy with the state and defends a historically occluded form of politics.

True democracy does not entail the political and economic power of the state, but it does not dream of a post–political society either. On the contrary, the battle of democracy is waged by a demos that invents a public sphere of permanent struggles, a politics that counters political bureaucracy and representation. Democracy is "won" by a people forewarned that any dissolution of the political realm in its independence, any subordination to the state, is tantamount to annihilating the site for gaining and regaining a genuinely human existence.

In this explicitly heterodox reading of Marx, Miguel Abensour proposes a theory of "insurgent" democracy that makes political liberty synonymous with a living critique of domination.

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Translator′s Introduction: "To Think Emancipation Otherwise" by Max Blechman

Preface to the Italian edition (2008)

Preface to the second French edition (2004): "Of Insurgent Democracy"



Chapter 1: The Utopia of the Rational State

Chapter 2: Political Intelligence

Chapter 3: From the 1843 Crisis to the Criticism of Politics Chapter 4: A Reading Hypothesis

Chapter 5: The Four Characteristics of True Democracy Chapter 6: True Democracy and Modernity


Annex: "Savage Democracy" and the "Principle of Anarchy"
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"From the Indignados to the Occupy movements to the Arab Spring, spontaneous, popular political initiatives attract broad sympathy only to see power reassert itself. Abensour has written as persuasive an account of the underlying logic of such movements as I know, and an invaluable critique of their widespread liberal and anarchist (self–) misunderstandings."

Radical Philosophy

"This book makes a most significant contribution. It offers a fresh and generally persuasive  interpretation of Marx, while also addressing some contemporary issues within democratic theory."

Perspectives on Politics

"Of interest primarily to scholars of Marxism and contemporary French political theory. Recommended."


"Democracy is not a State–form. The power of the people is the antithesis of the Statist principle. By maintaining with Marx, and against the Marxist tradition, this radical thesis, Miguel Abensour makes an essential contribution to the urgent task of returning the words ′politics′ and ′democracy′ to their original meaning."
Jacques Rancière, University of Paris

"This is a long–awaited translation of a very important book. Abensour presents an utterly persuasive reading of the early Marx in terms of the notion of ‘true democracy′ which cannot be reduced to the State–form. Thus there is a Machiavellian moment of political decision in Marx that exceeds the identification of politics with the State. The work is a hugely suggestive and important intervention into contemporary theoretical debates."
Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research

"At a time when popular distrust of the State is monopolized by right–wing movements, it is healthy to be reminded that there is a powerful counterpart on the left. In his provocative defense of ′insurgent democracy,′ Abensour shows the abiding power of a libertarianism unafraid to acknowledge its debt to anarchist thought and practice."
Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley

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