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

Associate Professor of Geography and International Studies at the University of Wyoming
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