The course is divided into two main sections. In the first section we analyse initially two contemporary theories of democracy, the models of deliberative democracy (J. Habermas, J. Rawls et al.) and of agonistic democracy (Ch. Mouffe, J. Rancière et al.) and we examine their critique of the theory and the practice of modern democracy: of the liberal, republican and aggregative model of democracy, as well as of contemporary democratic politics. We then engage with theories of post-democracy (C. Crouch, Ch. Mouffe) and biopower which offer theoretical frames for a critical understanding and assessment of the contemporary condition of democracy under circumstances of crisis.
In the second section we will explore contemporary thought on the different forms of collective subjects which undertake, or could undertake, political action in our times with a view to fostering democracy. We will focus: 1) On the conceptions of the people and the multitude in the thought of Ernesto Laclau and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; 2) On social classes under present conditions: how they are structured and which role can or should they play in political structure and mobilization; how social class is conceptualized in the classical sociology of modernity (Karl Marx and Max Weber), in contemporary political sociology (Goldthrope) and in the theories of the ‘precariat’ (Guy Standing); 3) On the nation and nationalism. The importance of the appeal to the nation for the construction of contemporary political communities and for the emergence of strong collective identities; We will look into basic problems of the definition of the nation, the analysis of nationalism as a political ideology, the relationship of the nation with democracy and justice.