This first version of LASI is dedicated to the concept of Emergent Democracies – New Forms of Coexistence. This concept refers to transformations in the form of democratic rule and their impact on how we might understand and theorize contemporary democracies in social theory. We are inspired by the unstable yet insistent claims for participation, influence, and self-determination that have emerged from groups and people after the end of the Cold War and at a moment when history, and hence politics, allegedly had come to an end.
These circumstances are intensively present in Latin America. For instance, in the case of Chile, the country re-emerged as a fragile democracy in 1990 after the defeat of the Pinochet dictatorship today standing as a consolidated liberal state. However –or for the same reason- it is facing increasing demands from a citizenry that feels alienated from the ruling elites, with the sense that democratic rule cannot fulfill the expectations of socio-economic stability and prosperity it evokes. Democracies, in other words, are always emergent and constantly experiencing the contradictions inherent to the liberal model of governance. For the same reason, too often democracies are incapable of fulfilling the expectations they evoke. This is not simply a question for “more or less” democracy, but rather a question of which ways of life, social relations, geopolitical configurations, human-environment relations, and economic arrangements are made possible in the name of democracy.
These experiences of partially unfulfilled democratic expectations and the effects of ongoing struggles for the expansion of democratic rights and satisfactory ways of coexistence can be studied in a wide range of scenarios, such as:
- Indigenous movements and demands of recognition
- Emergent plurinational states and local autonomies
- Reconfigurations of regimes of race and class
- Minority groups, religion, and secularism in democracy
- The rise of social movements and shifting understandings of citizenship
- Gender politics
- Rights of nature and non-human species
- Biomedical (re)definition of worthy and unworthy forms of life
- Migration and increased urbanization
- New forms of exclusion, securitization, and expressions of state sovereignty
While the rise of these and other concerns are critically palpable across the Latin American region, demands for recognition and other forms of identity politics are not unique to this continent. They are part of the global postcolonial scenario and are expressed in diverse forms, both in colonized and colonizing societies. From this perspective, the effects and contradictions of emergent democracies are rooted in the intrinsic contradictions of the liberal model of governance and can also be found in Europe and other “developed” contexts. LASI seeks to generate a comparative outlook with theoretical approaches that situate the analysis of specific and “local” issues in their articulation with “global” phenomena.
We suggest that while democracy has turned hegemonic as form of governance, at the same time the very notions of what democratic form of life are and how democratic relations should unfold are undergoing transformation. Definitions of whom and what belongs to the polis are challenged, and the very morphology of the relationship between the democratic state and its citizens is thus undergoing transformation. Within this context we must consider how these changes inform as much the common sense and theoretical understandings of the nature of democracy as the forms coexistence among different groups, and how power asymmetries are reproduced within them.