A Democratic Theory of Life: Living Democracy with Black Lives Matter

Hans Asenbaum, Reece Chenault, Christopher Harris, Akram Hassan, Curtis Hierro, Stephen Houldsworth , Brandon Mack, Shauntrice Martin, Chivona Newsome, Kayla Reed, Tony Rice, Shevone Torres, Terry J. Wilson II

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In response to its current crisis, scholars call for the revitalisation of democracy through democratic innovations. While they make ample use of life metaphors describing democracy as a living organism, no comprehensive understanding of ‘life’ has been established within democratic theory. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement articulates the urgency of refocusing on life and its meaning through radical democratic practice. This article employs a grounded theory approach, enriched with participatory methods, to develop a radical democratic concept of life in conversation with BLM. It conceptualises life as the existence of a perspective that constantly transforms through its fundamental interconnectedness. Building on this concept, the article outlines four principles of a living democracy that go beyond the revitalisation discourse. A living democracy (1) safeguards the existence of all humans and nonhumans, (2) nurtures a diversity of perspectives, (3) fosters social and planetary connectivity, and (4) enables self- and collective transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalTheoria: a journal of social and political theory
Issue number176
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


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