This book critiques the relation between sovereignty and democracy. Across nine theses, Vardoulakis argues that sovereignty asserts its power by establishing exclusions: the sovereign excluding other citizens from power and excludes refugees and immigrants from citizenship. Within this structure, to resist sovereignty is to reproduce the logic of exclusion characteristic of sovereignty.
In contrast to this “ruse of sovereignty,” Vardoulakis proposes an alternative model for political change. He argues that democracy can be understood as the structure of power that does not rely on exclusions and whose relation to sovereignty is marked not by exclusion but of incessant agonism.
The term stasis, which refers both to the state and to revolution against it, offers a tension that helps to show how the democratic imperative is presupposed by the logic of sovereignty, and how agonism is more primary than exclusion. In elaborating this ancient but only recently recovered concept of stasis, Vardoulakis illustrates the radical potential of democracy to move beyond the logic of exclusion and the ruse of sovereignty.
Against the naïve utopias of radical democracy and of liberal democracy alike, Vardoulakis presents us with ‘agonistic democracy’—a non-teleological and paradoxical political practice that constitutes the condition of possibility as well as the only real alternative to sovereign power. Stasis before the State is a truly remarkable and memorable book.
University of Minnesota, Cultural Critique Senior Editor
“A beautiful and lyrical book. Over the course of nine theses Vardoulakis contends with some of the central issues of contemporary politics and shows that we need not fear conflict but should embrace it as a critical aspect of democratic life.”
San Francisco State University