Political agency between urban and transnational spaces

Barnett, Clive (2013). Political agency between urban and transnational spaces. In: Maiguashca, Bice and Marchetti, Raffaele eds. Contemporary Political Agency: Theory and Practice. Global Order Series. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 31–51.

URL: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/97804155953...


This chapter examines critical theories of democracy which are concerned with the type of legitimacy that is exercised through various forms of transnational political agency. By focusing on the specific normative principle that underwrites these theories – the principle of all affected interest – the chapter highlights the importance of recognizing that a great deal of ‘transnational political agency’ might also be regarded as urbanized. The aim of this chapter is to expand the understanding of the sorts of actors and activities to which ‘agency’ can be plausibly attributed in describing the emergence of contemporary forms of transnational political agency. Realising this aim requires a consideration of the necessarily mediated qualities of political agency, and the associated de-centering of models of agency as the preserve of conventional political actors, whether these are political parties, states or voters. Three forms of mediation of political agency will be addressed: mediation through networks of communicative action, through modes of representative claims-making, and through the distributed effects of combinations of humans, technologies, and conventions. Section I discusses theorists of transnational democracy who focus on the political agency of ‘bottom-up’ contentious social movements in democratizing processes. The agency attributed to social movements is understood as being enacted in distributed fields of communicative action. In Section II, it is argued that if the theoretical emphasis on communicative action as a medium of democratic political agency is recognized, then this increases the significance of situated contexts in which grievances emerge. Section III outlines an agenda for investigating the relationships between the situated contexts of being affected by temporally and spatially extensive socio-economic processes and the generation of transnational political agency.

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