In the early years of the new millennium, the practice of democracy in America and around the world faces tremendous dangers: the proliferation of transnational corporations, the spread of oppressive fundamentalism, and environmental collapse. Within the United States, opposition to increasingly antidemocratic political and economic policies has been either nonexistent or unsuccessful. This trend includes, but far exceeds, the Bush administration’s policies from the Patriot Act and the war on Iraq to the “Clear Channelization” of the media and the private development of public lands.
In Beyond Gated Politics, political theorist and grassroots activist Romand Coles argues that the survival of democracy depends on recognizing the failings of disengaged liberal democracy—the exclusions and subjugations that accompany every democratic “we,” for example—and experimenting with more radical modes of democratic theory and action. Among those brought into the conversation are John Howard Yoder, John Rawls, Alisdair MacIntyre, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde.
Coles, whose work is deeply informed by his own experiences as an activist, pays close attention to the actual practice of democracy with particular interest in emerging social movements. In doing so, he not only moves beyond the paradigms of political liberalism, deliberative democracy, and communitarian republicanism, but also cultivates multidimensional modes of public discourse that reflect and sustain the creative tension at the heart of democratic life and responsibility.
Romand Coles is professor of political theory at Duke University. His previous books include Rethinking Generosity: Critical Theory and the Politics of Caritas and Self/Power/Other: Political Theory and Dialogical Ethics.