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Democracy as Fetish

Ralph Cintrón

Democracy has long been fetishized. Consequently, how we speak about democracy and what we expect from democratic governance are at odds with practice. With unflinching resolve, this book probes the theory of democracy and how the left and right are fascinated by it.

In this innovative multidisciplinary study, Ralph Cintrón provides sustained analysis of our political discourse. He shows not only how the rhetoric of democracy produces strong desires for social order, global wealth, and justice but also how these desires cannot be satisfied. Throughout his discussion, Cintrón includes ethnographic research from fieldwork conducted over the course of twenty years in the Latino neighborhoods of Chicago, where he observes both citizens and the undocumented looking to democracy to fulfill their highest aspirations. Politicians hand out favors to the elite, developers strong-arm aldermen, and the disenfranchised have little redress. The problem, Cintrón argues, is that the conditions required to put democracy into practice—territory, a bordered nation-state, citizens, property—are constituted by inequality and violence, because there is no inclusivity that does not also exclude.

Drawing on ethnography, economics, political theory, and rhetorical analysis, Cintrón makes his case with tremendous analytic rigor. This challenge to reassess the discourses on democracy and to consider democratic politics as always compromised by oligarchy will be of particular interest to political and rhetorical theorists.

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