15 April 2020

Corey Robin: “Of all political forms, democracy is the most dependent on the participation of its citizens. Critically, that participation is supposed to be collective. Citizens are bound to each other, which makes them a people, and they govern as a people. Democracy ‘is not an alternative to other principles of associated life,’ wrote John Dewey. ‘It is the idea of community life itself.’ And though a voting booth may be more reminiscent of a cubicle or a confessional than an assembly, what we do inside of that booth is a public endeavor. Yet, if we cannot gather to assemble or vote, much less deliberate, in what sense can we have a democracy? How do we do politics in a pandemic, self-governance under quarantine? Is it possible to supervise the supervisors if we’re too sequestered — or sick — to vote? … When people express concern about the consequences of pandemic politics for democracy, they are thinking of a fairly familiar, and limited, repertoire of activities — voting, primaries, conventions, marching in the streets. But the counter-tradition of inauspicious democracy teaches us that the world of established institutions and familiar tactics, even if those tactics once belonged to protest movements past, is not the only place to look for democracy.”