After the mutiny, “contingent democracy”

bas-lag-trilogyI’m currently reading the second in China Miéville‘s three part Bas-Lag series – Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council. As I finished The Scar, about the floating ship-city Armada, I looked up from my page when I read Miéville’s description of a suspension of governable order after a mutiny.

“The truth terrified them [the pirate-bureaucrats who had, until the mutiny, ruled Armada]: in those anarchic hours [after the mutiny] there was no one giving orders. There was no chain of command, no order, no hierarchy, nothing but a rugged, contingent democracy thrown together by the Armadans as they needed it.”

Miéville’s description of contingent democracy finds an echo in Judith Butler’s post-2011 writing on “bodies in alliance,” on which Derek Gregory has reflected in several blog posts (e.g., this one on Butler’s new book) and this 2013 article. Here’s Butler, from a relevant article in the journal of the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies, on a time “when the legitimacy of a regime is called into question, but when no new regime has yet come to takes its place.”

“This time of the interval is the time of the popular will, not a single will, not a unitary will, but one that is characterized by an alliance with the performative power to lay claim to the public in a way that is not yet codified into law, and that can never be fully codified into law.”

About nicholasjoncrane

Assistant Professor of Geography and International Studies; School of Politics, Public Affairs, and International Studies at the University of Wyoming
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