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Performative Democracy (Yale Cultural Sociology)by Elzbieta Matynia
Synopses & Reviews
Performative Democracy explores a potential in political life that easily escapes theorists: the indigenously inspired enacting of democracy by citizens. Written by one who experienced an emerging public sphere within Communist Poland, the book seeks to identify the conditions for performativity-performing politics--in public life. It examines a broad spectrum of cultural, social, and political initiatives that facilitated the non-violent transformation of an autocratic environment into a democratic one. Examples of performativity range from experimental student theater, through the engaged political thinking of dissident Adam Michnik, the alternative culture, and the Solidarity movement, to the drama of the Round Table Talks (and their striking parallels in South Africa), and finally, the post-1989 efforts of feminist groups and women artists to defend the recently won right of free public discourse. The book argues that performative democracy, with its improvisational mode and imaginative solutions, deserves a legitimate place in our broader reflections on democracy.
Book News Annotation:
Matynia (sociology and liberal studies, New School for Social Research) describes examples of what she calls "performative democracy," which is a temporary phenomenon, an emergent public sphere, that involves local people talking to each other in public in order to illuminate the reality around them and find ways to change it. She discusses the Young Theater movement of Poland and how it enabled private voices to become social ones in the early 1970s; the emergence of the Polish union Solidarity, "a masterwork of performative democracy," Polish dissident Adam Michnik; the performativity of negotiations to end communism in Poland and apartheid in South Africa; and the performativity of Polish women artists as Poland joined the European Union. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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