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Humboldt University Berlin

Bucerius Dissertation Completion Scholarship

Social Glue as a Condition of the Political


Most people today would agree that functioning democratic societies need some sense of community. Questions about the degree and the kind of community we require to successfully govern ourselves are however much more controversial. Most recently, so-called radical models of democracy – for whom a fundamental openness and indeterminacy lies at the heart of the democratic project – have argued that democratic community is not marked by consensus or unity but by division and conflict. But how can we be working together towards the realization of democracy if division and contingency are constitutive features of democracy? How, in the face of contestation and constant change, are we to mutually relate to each other as members of the same political community? And what can be the source of the social glue needed to prevent our society from breaking apart? By means of a systematic analysis and reconstruction of classical sociological theories of community, in particular those of Emil Durkheim and Georg Simmel, my dissertation identifies alternative sources of communal bonds – so-called bonds of “mutual concern” – that do not rely on ideas of unity or consensus but are borne out of conflict instead. I aim to show how this account of mutual concern can serve as a social-theoretic framework to better understand the conditions under which radical democracy and radical democratic community can be realised.

Theresa Clasen is a free-lance editor for fiction and non-fiction. She completed her doctorate in social philosophy at Humboldt University Berlin in 2019. From 2012-2015 she was a dissertation research fellow at the International Research Training Group "Constitutionalism Beyond the State" at Humboldt University. In the fall of 2014, she spent a semester as visiting research scholar at the New School for Social Research in New York. Prior to her Ph.D. she ran the political programme at the American Academy in Berlin. Theresa holds a B.Sc. in Philosophy & Economics from the London School of Economics and an M.Sc. in Political Theory from Oxford University.  

Gemeinschaft und Radikale Demokratie. Wie Konflikt verbinden kann“, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/New York, 2019

Sie erzählen das Märchen vom Teilen“ in: Der Freitag, 47, 24.11.2016 

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