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Defiant Publics: The Unprecedented Reach of the Global Citizen



Defiant Publics: The Unprecedented Reach of the Global Citizen

Daniel Drache

ISBN: 978-0-745-63179-0 August 2008 Polity 160 Pages


Social activism and dissent have become global phenomena for our times. Ordinary people across the world are fighting back. This newly potent political force has defeated governments in India and Spain, and has brought down the EU draft constitution. Disaffected by the triumph of markets, public goods, public interest and public spaces are regaining political ground.

Daniel Drache argues that, feeding off distrust and suspicion of governments, and assisted by the new cultural flows of people, ideas and information, this is a political phenomenon without historical precedent. No-one owns the new public, elites remain baffled by its power and impact. No-one can contain its innovative, inclusive and rapidly evolving organizational style. No-one can determine when the current cycle of dissent will peak.

This lively and engaging book is a must-read for anyone interested in the role of protesters and publics in contemporary politics.

List of figures vii

Acknowledgements viii

Introduction: Goals and Values that are Inescapably Public 1

1 The Crowded Public Sphere and its Discontents 24

2 Market Fundamentalism and the Worried Public 54

3 Digital Publics and the Culture of Dissent 89

4 Nixers, Fixers, and the Axes of Conformity 115

5 Infinite Varieties of the Modern Public: Novelty, Surprise, and Uncertainty 144

Appendix: Critical Human Rights Conventions of the Global Public Domain 172

A Note on Sources 179

Select Bibliography 184

Index 187

“Drache is well read and committed to his subject, and the book is littered with excellent quotations from leading contemporary thinkers and activists.”
Times Higher Education

“On reading this book, the activist will understand how to arouse wider political participation, and the skeptic will be concerned that established power uses the same technology to manipulate a passive public. For a broad and non-specialized audience, the book opens a discussion about the nature of politics in the twenty-first century.”
Robert Cox, York University

“Drache makes a courageous and controversial stand against much that is taken for granted by elites in our global order. He is optimistic that fluid but ‘Defiant Publics’ are moving towards an unknown but different world, seeking citizenship in a diverse and renewed global public domain. Yet his analysis leaves us aware we should also keep an eye on the possible unintended consequences of what might now be occurring.”
Geoffrey Underhill, Universiteit van Amsterdam

“Widespread military adventurism, resurgent violent populisms, faux democracies drenched in cynicism, and looming ecological crises on an unimaginable scale: the world we inhabit seems to be one absent of hope or possibility. Daniel Drache’s fascinating Defiant Publics jolts us out of our too-easy dystopian imaginings by showing us the ways in which multiple publics are struggling to create dynamic new futures.”
Imre Szeman, McMaster University

“Daniel Drache’s new book builds on the best of democratic theory developed in the twentieth-century nation-state, to conceptualize a non-territorial, non-traditional account of global democratic politics for our time. Defiant Publics identifies the new social actors in a de-hierarchized polity and challenges our ways of understanding political deliberation.”
Peer Zumbansen, York University

  • A lively and very readable book on the consequences and possibilities of global protest and dissent
  • Shows how ‘defiant publics’ have evolved over the last decade, aided by new flows of people and information
  • Detailed analysis of the role of protesters, from Seattle to Spain, from India to the EU
  • analyses the role which publics may play in the future of global politics