Rousseau’s Revenge: The Political Philosophy of Brexit
- 3.7k Downloads
The political philosophy behind Brexit was a product of disenchantment stemming from the political inequality associated with post-democracy. The referendum itself was an attempt to allay fears that popular opinion was being excluded on the EU issue. This chapter explains that political representation under post-democracy exacerbates the fundamental inequality between ruled and ruling that preoccupied Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Yet resorting to direct democracy to create political equality between governed and governing worked only momentarily. The challenge thus facing the British political establishment after Brexit is that of maintaining belief in the representativeness of the governing and in the sovereignty of the people. Rousseau’s revenge comes not by providing a counter-model of democracy, but rather by asking questions representative democracy struggles to answer.
KeywordsRousseau Post-democracy Representation Populism Popular sovereignty Article 50
- Adler-Nissen, Rebecca. 2015. Opting Out of the European Union: Diplomacy, Sovereignty and European Integration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Constant, Benjamin. 1988. Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Crouch, Colin. 2000. Coping with Post-democracy. Fabian Society pamphlet. Available at http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Post-Democracy.pdf. Accessed 6 Aug 2016.
- Fukuyama, Francis. 1989. The End of History? The National Interest 16(Summer): 3–18.Google Scholar
- Hanretty, Chris. 2016. Most Labour MPs Represent a Constituency that Voted Leave. Available at https://medium.com/@chrishanretty/most-labour-mps-represent-a-constituency-that-voted-leave-36f13210f5c6#.dkol4bsfm. Accessed 6 Aug 2016.
- Mair, Peter. 2013. Ruling the Void. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Melzer, Arthur. 1990. The Natural Goodness of Man: On the System of Rousseau’s Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1968. The Social Contract. Trans. Maurice Cranston. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Runciman, David. 2013. The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Toqueville, Alexis de. 1994. Democracy in America. Trans. H. Reeve. London: David Campbell.Google Scholar