The People and the Poor

The People and the Poor


October 03, 2017    
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm


Room 9204, The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 5th Ave. , New York, NY, 10016

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Tuesday, October 3, 5:30–7:30
Room 9207, The Graduate Center

Featuring presentations by Jason Frank (Cornell University) and Andreas Kalyvas (The New School for Social Research), followed by a conversation with with Susan Buck-Morss (The Graduate Center).


Jason Frank (Cornell University)
“The Living Sovereign: Democratic Theory and the Problem of Popular Manifestation”
Recent scholarship on popular sovereignty and constituent power has focused narrowly on juridical questions of constitution making and neglected problems of popular manifestation in periods of revolutionary transition. In The Sleeping Sovereign, to take one notable example, Richard Tuck traces the conceptual distinction between sovereignty and government as it is developed, first, in such canonical political theorists as Bodin, Hobbes, and Rousseau, and then implemented by the constitutional reforms of French Girondins (unsuccessfully) and American Federalists (successfully). The juridical focus of this scholarship prevents democratic theorists from engaging with the political dilemmas of popular manifestation—how popular will appears and becomes politically salient in periods of revolutionary change. The problem of manifestation raises theoretical issues that are aesthetic rather than juridical and that democratic theorists should more effectively integrate into their study of popular sovereignty and constituent power.

Andreas Kalyvas (The New School for Social Research)
“Democracy and the Poor: For a Radical Theory of Democracy”
The lecture examines the hypothesis of democracy as the politics of the poor, in an attempt to radically rethink the democratic experience and to capture its political singularity and defining traits.  To do so, this hypothesis, which claims an essential relation between democracy and the poor, that is, the poor as the differentia specifica of democracy, must be treated in three different but related registers: that of the question of the subject of democracy, the powers it possesses, and its normative principles and emancipatory aspirations.  Within this context, the question of sovereignty acquires a special significance and meaning to the degree that it is transversal to a plurality of democratic forms, such as plebeian sovereignty, proletarian democracy, federated councils, or communal assemblies.  For this reason, the institutional, legal, cultural, and symbolic innovations associated with the poor and their struggles against oligarchic power and the political rule of wealth are central for understanding the democratic project, its radical content and polemical character.  By way of conclusion, the hypothesis of the democracy of the poor, namely, democracy as the project of politicized and organized poverty, is brought to bear on the present in order to reflect on the generalized crisis of the liberal model of rule.


Jason Frank is the Robert J. Katz Chair of Government at Cornell University.  He is the author of Constituent Moments: Enacting the People in Postrevolutionary America (2010), Publius and Political Imagination (2013), and the editor of A Political Companion to Herman Melville (2013).  He is currently completing a book on the aesthetics of popular sovereignty, entitled The Democratic Sublime: Assembly and Aesthetics in the Age of Revolution (forthcoming Oxford UP).


Andreas Kalyvas is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics at The New School for Social Research and the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts.  Before joining the New School, he taught at Columbia University and the University of Michigan.  He has been a visiting research professor at the University of Barcelona, Spain, and has also taught in Germany, Poland, and South Africa.  He is the author of Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary: Weber, Schmitt, and Arendt(Cambridge UP 2008) and the co-author of Liberal Beginnings: Making a Republic for the Moderns(Cambridge UP 2008). He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled, Tyranny Legalized: Republicanism, Dictatorship, and the Enemy Within.  Kalyvas is a chief co-editor of Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory.

The People and the Poor
Date: October 03, 2017
Time: 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Location: Room 9204, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Address: 365 5th Ave. , New York 10016 (View Map)