Imagined Democracies

Imagined Democracies : Necessary Political Fictions

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This book proposes a revisionist approach to democratic politics. Yaron Ezrahi focuses on the creative unconscious collective imagination that generates ever-changing visions of legitimate power and authority, which compete for enactment and institutionalization in the political arena. If, in the past, political authority was grounded in fictions such as the divine right of kings, the laws of nature, historical determinism and scientism, today the space of democratic politics is filled with multiple alternative social imaginaries of the desirable political order. Exposure to electronic mass media has made contemporary democratic publics more aware that credible popular fictions have greater impact on shaping our political realities than do rational social choices or moral arguments. The pressing political question in contemporary democracy is, therefore, how to select and enact political fictions that promote peace and how to found the political order on checks and balances between alternative political imaginaries of freedom and more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 3 b/w illus.
  • 1139575309
  • 9781139575300

Table of contents

Part I. Necessary Fictions of the Political and the Reality of Political Fictions: 1. The contest over the rightful domain of the imagination; 2. The revival and contemporary legacy of Giambatista Vico (1668-1744) as a modern theorist of the political imagination; 3. Modes of imagining: elements of a theory of the political imagination; 4. Naturalization and historicization as strategies of the political imagination; Part II. Modern Common Sense and the Rise of Modern Political Imaginaries: 5. The historicity of common sense and the role of scientism in the modern political imagination; 6. Empiricism, induction, and visibility: the moral epistemology of democratic political power; 7. The performing arts and the performance of politics: the dialectics between the transparent and self-concealing imagination; Part III. Modern Imaginaries of Democratic Political Agencies and Causality: 8. Voluntary action, the fear of theatricality, and the materialization of the political; 9. Animated fictions: self (as) fulfilling prophecy and the performative imaginaries of democratic political agencies; 10. Individuals between liberal and illiberal corporations; 11. The impact of culture, the cultivation of the individual interior in literature, painting, and music; Part IV. The Postmodern Turn and the Return of Political Theatricality: 12. Mass media and the refictionalization of agency and reality; 13. The ethics and pragmatics of the democratic political imagination: on choosing the imaginaries we want to live more

About Yaron Ezrahi

Yaron Ezrahi studied political science and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and holds a PhD from Harvard University. He has served as an advisor on science policy to the White House, the US National Academy of Science, the OECD (1969-70), the Israeli Academy of Science and Humanities (1973-83) and the Carnegie Commission on Science (1992). He is the recipient of a National Jewish Book award and of the Israeli Political Science Association's Prize for Life Work (2009). He has been a member of the Hebrew University faculty since 1972. Other appointments include a fellowship at the Center of Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and visiting professorships at the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Harvard, Princeton, ETH Zurich and Brown University. His works include The Descent of Icarus: Science and the Transformation of Contemporary Democracy; Technology, Pessimism, and Postmodernism (edited with Everett Mendelsohn and Howard Segal); Rubber Bullets: Power and Conscience in Modern Israel; and Israel Towards a Constitutional Democracy (with M. Kremnitzer). He is a co-founder and board member of The Seventh Eye, Israel's leading journal of press criticism in Hebrew. His work has also appeared in Minerva, Science Studies, Social Research, Inquiry, Foreign Affairs, Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences and The New York Times more

Review quote

'While the author states that the question guiding the work is 'how we got here', in fact this 320-page volume - which is no less than a contemporary masterpiece - offers far more than an answer to this question. It reframes the history of politics and political thought from ancient Greece through modernity, the enlightenment and its critics, to contemporary postmodernity, adding perspective and leaving readers with an interpretative mechanism which renders far less of today's political reality new than we might otherwise have suspected.' Meirav Jones, Contemporary Political Theory 'This book offers an original revisionist, theoretically eclectic approach that takes on the postmodern problematisations of contemporary democracy. In the vein of other contemporary theorists of social imaginaries like Charles Taylor and Benedict Anderson, Ezrahi's book ... moves beyond these thinkers to offer a unique approach.' Bryant W. Sculos, Political Studies Reviewshow more

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