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Reading: Historicising the Question of Democracy’s Presentism: The Concept of Interest and Political ...

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Historicising the Question of Democracy’s Presentism: The Concept of Interest and Political Languages of the Future in France, 1830–1850

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Julia Nordblad

University of Uppsala, SE
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Abstract

A long-standing allegation holds that democracy is inherently biased in favour of the present to the detriment of the future. In this article, I question this premise by looking at temporality as a contested aspect of democratic practices of legitimisation. I approach democracy as a fundamentally historical phenomenon with language-based practices at its core. This is done through an examination of parliamentary debates on long-term policies on forests in the 1830s and 40s in France. In this context, there was a struggle over temporality that was played out as a conflict over the concept of interest. This article suggests an examination of the concept of interest as a locus for contestation between competing political languages implying different temporalities as a way of understanding democracy historically. The development of a concept of interest with the long term at its core in the late 1840s can be seen as a redescription of key concepts established as part of the radical Enlightenment political program of presentism. Following this analysis, I argue that democracy is not inherently presentist, but is shaped by a history in which both languages of radical presentism and elaborate long-term perspectives are constitutive parts. As such, these languages make up resources for developing legitimacy for long-term policies in contemporary democracies.

How to Cite: Nordblad, Julia. 2018. “Historicising the Question of Democracy’s Presentism: The Concept of Interest and Political Languages of the Future in France, 1830–1850”. Redescriptions: Political Thought, Conceptual History and Feminist Theory 21 (1): 44–70. DOI: http://doi.org/10.7227/R.21.1.4
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Published on 01 May 2018.
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