The Dark side of Democracy Popular Sovereignty, Decolonisation and Dictatorship


This paper argues that we must look to the politics of popular sovereignty,‎ and in particular its unfolding in the period after the Second World War, for ‎the origin of the postcolonial condition, its specific vulgarity and temporality.‎ Following Arendt, the paper proposes that as a democratic practice popular‎ sovereignty transforms the ’people’ into absolutist subject, one that is necessarily ‎simple, at one with itself and exercising supreme authority over its territory.‎ Where such a people cannot be convened or institutionalised, democracy‎ tends either towards dictatorship or oligarchy or society itself fragments and ‎is at risk of dissolution. This has especially been the case on the African continent‎ where the new states that emerged after independence from European ‎Empires (and from settler-colonialism) were home to multitudes of great and ‎wide heterogeneity, without long histories of living together in common and‎ without, therefore, traditions and institutions of collective decision-making.

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