The Impossibility of Multiracial Democracy

Chamberlin, C. (2021). The Impossibility of Multiracial Democracy. Postmodern Culture 32(1), doi:10.1353/pmc.2021.0011.


Democracy becomes modern after it abolishes slavery and assumes its primary feature—race. Paradoxically, political theory cannot formalize a notion of democracy that incorporates the ex-slave or a post-slavery democracy that does not prescribe racial genocide. This essay shows that this paradox is structural, and tracks its transformation from Alexis de Tocqueville’s and Gustave de Beaumont’s nineteenth-century meditations on the specter of abolition to UNESCO’s postwar statements on race, particularly through Claude Lévi-Strauss’s and W.E.B. Du Bois’s subsequent critiques of racial capitalism. It concludes by reflecting on the ethics of war as a materialization of the impossibility of multiracial democracy.

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European Journal of Psychoanalysis