The nonhuman condition: radical democracy through new materialist lenses

Hans Asenbaum, Amanda Machin, Jean Paul Gagnon, Diana Leong, Melissa Orlie, James Louis Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Is radical democracy only for humans? From Pateman’s (1970) workplace participation to Habermas’ communicative rationality (1984) and Laclau and Mouffe’s counter-hegemony (1985), radical democratic thinking has conventionally taken the human as the sole subject of politics. Whether through the formation of coalitions, citizens’ assemblies, or social movement protest, it is the human who acts upon the world, and it is ‘the human condition’ (Arendt, 1958) that provides the possibility for democratic politics. More recently, however, democratic theorists have extended their attention beyond the human (Connolly, 2013). Questions are emerging regarding the political significance and potential agency of animals (Donaldson et al., 2021), natural events (Romero & Dryzek, 2021), rivers (Smith, 2017), ecosystems (Winter, 2019), viruses (Parry et al., 2021), public things (Honig, 2017), material places (Parkinson, 2012), bodies (Machin, 2022a), digital technologies (Asenbaum, 2021a), and artificial intelligence (Alnemr, 2020). Radical democratic thinking is becoming intrigued by the material situatedness of its political agents and by the role of nonhuman participants in political interaction. At stake here is the displacement of narrow anthropocentrism that currently guides democratic theory and practice, and its repositioning into what we call ‘the nonhuman condition.’
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-615
Number of pages32
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2023


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