Democracy after Marx: Lefort, Abensour and the Critique of Domination

2nd International Workshop on Radical Democracy. Application until October, 10th

A critical theory of democracy, it seems, is not Marx’s strongest suit. Nevertheless it has been through critical reassessments of Marx’s political and social thought that theories of radical democracy have evolved in the 20th century, following up and expanding Marx’s critique of all forms of domination. In order to capture this moment in the history of political thought, this workshop will focus on the works of Claude Lefort and Miguel Abensour – two important, albeit still rather marginal contemporary French thinkers. Two lines of critique have shaped their thought on democratic politics: for Lefort it has for one part been, in line with Hannah Arendt, the critique of totalitarianism and the question of democratic power as the source of a critique of domination; for Abensour, following Machiavelli and others, the theory of democracy after Marx is articulated as a critique of the State and its specific form of domination. It is through these critical theoretical approaches that the insurgent, emancipatory or utopian potential of democratic politics opens up. During the workshop we will read and discuss central texts by Arendt, Lefort and Abensour together with Vicky Iakovou who will also give an evening lecture on Abensour and his relation to the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School.

Vicky Iakovou is Assistant Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of the Aegean in Lesvos/Mytilene, Greece. In 2001 she has completed her PhD (»Une confrontation. Hannah Arendt et la Théorie Critique«) at the University of Paris 7-Denis Diderot under the supervision of Miguel Abensour. Her research, teaching and publications focus on modern and contemporary political philosophy, post-foundational continental theories of democracy, Hannah Arendt’s thought, as well as the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School and the tradition of utopian thought. Her publications also include translations of books into Greek (Abensour, Ricoeur, Rancière, Žižek) and articles, which have appeared in Greek, French and English edited volumes and scientific journals. She is currently writing the introduction to and preparing the Greek translation of Miguel Abensour’s book La démocratie contre l’Etat. Marx et le moment machiavélien. For a list of publications see

1 NOVEMBER 2018, THURSDAY: 2 PM – 8 PMSession 1 (2 – 5 PM): Democracy and the critique of Marx in Lefort and AbensourEvening Lecture by Vicky Iakovou (6 – 8 PM): »Writing on the Political from the Side ofthe Dominated«: On Miguel Abensour’s Critical Theory

2 NOVEMBER 2018, FRIDAY: 10 AM – 6 PM
Session 2 (10 AM – 1 PM): From the critique of totalitarianism to the question of (democratic) politics

Session 3 (2 – 4 PM): Insurgent democracy and the critique of the State

Session 4 (4 – 6 PM): Democracy and utopia

Registration: People interested in participating in the workshop are kindly asked to register until October 10th by mail agridopoulos(at)em.uni-frankfurt(dot)de and trautmann(at)em.uni-frankfurt(dot)de . Participants will be provided with digital copies of the texts that are going to be discussed in the workshop.

More information (PDF).