CANCELLED: “Democratic Agency Amidst Setbacks: Mobilizing Hope by Designing for Disappointment,” Antonin Lacelle-Webster, Yale

Event time: 
Friday, April 26, 2024 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Institution for Social and Policy Studies (PROS77 ), A002 See map
77 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 


Abstract: The dialectic between hope and disappointment is well-known in democratic politics, with disappointment being generally perceived as a threat to political agency and a topic of concern for democracy. For example, against the difficulties of representative democratic institutions in addressing the climate crisis, alternative participatory and deliberative spaces, such as climate assemblies, are emerging and enabling new expectations. A “realist” critique of these processes has tended to depict the discrepancy between these experiences and their political outcomes as a reflection of misleading normative expectations that lead to further disappointments and more entrenched dissatisfaction with politics. Against the risk of misplaced hopes, the solution it proposes is to re-evaluate what democracy can and should do. I resist this conclusion and ask instead what democratic theory can learn from the interaction between hope and disappointment. I suggest that hope and disappointment are mutually reinforcing political experiences inherent to the openness, both temporal and spatial, of democratic systems. I understand thus disappointment is one facet of a democratic theory of hope as their interaction contributes to organizing and re-organizing collective agency. Sustaining collective action across time relies on mobilizing a collective account of hope, which requires designing spaces where disappointment can be navigated to avoid perceived political closures that undermine agency. I juxtapose insights from the scholarship on democratic innovations, institutional design, and social movements to situate the collective experiences inherent to climate assemblies and what it would mean to mobilize hope and design for disappointment in democratic systems.

Antonin Lacelle-Webster is a postdoctoral associate with the Democratic Innovations Program at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS) at Yale University. He received a Ph.D. in political science from the University of British Columbia in 2023. His research focuses primarily on democratic theory, with a particular interest in democratic innovations, political agency, and the politics of hope and disappointment. His current book project theorizes a political, collective, and open-ended conception of hope embedded in democratic practices and spaces and its implications on the study of democracy and political agency. He is also involved with Participedia as a member of the Democratic Representation research cluster and the Editorial Board. His research has been published in books and journals including the European Journal of Political Theory.

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