There is a specter haunting democracy: the grimace of its own reflection. The history of all hitherto existing democracies, of all Western republics, is the history of conspiratorial struggle, a struggle of spirits, of breaths, conspiratio, a coming together to create a people, to declare independence, to seize power, to make a revolution, to launch a coup, e pluribus unum. Our breaths moving together, as one, often in darkness, in secret, rising and falling with the adrenaline of fright, rebellion, orgiastic violence. The ghost of the Catilinarian conspiracy haunts the foundations of modern liberal democracy in the writings of Montesquieu and Voltaire, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. Its image is ubiquitous among the modern apostles of both Cicero and Caesar. It functions as democracy’s unconscious, the repressed voice of the other. It is the image of our obscene enjoyment as surely as Donald Trump’s leer, the deep hue of Marine Le Pen’s bleue marine, and the exploding bomb. It is part of republican democracy’s DNA, a deep lineage that both promises to be and threatens its future, the glistening underbelly of paroxystic jouissance-what Jason Frank has labeled the democratic sublime (2021)-haunting the cool rationality of the neoliberal board room and its discontents: the imaginary other of our reflection.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2024 selection and editorial matter, Frida Beckman and Jeffrey R. Di Leo; individual chapters, the contributors.