Between Constituent Power and Political Form: Toward a Theory of Council Democracy

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This essay goes beyond the dominant conception of constituent power developed by Emmanuel Sieyès and Carl Schmitt by excavating an alternative through the practices of twentieth-century workers’ councils and the interpretations of council democracy by Cornelius Castoriadis and Hannah Arendt. Interpreters of the constituent power often agree on its fundamentally antagonistic relation to constituted power, hereby making constituent politics a momentary experience, which cannot be sustained in constituted politics. Council democracy, instead, discloses a modality of politics, which bridges the gap between constituent power and political form in order to provide institutional means through which the spirit of revolution can survive the founding moment. With this alternative concept of council democratic constituent power, this essay contributes to radical democratic theory by stipulating ways in which institutions can be rethought radically democratic as a way in which constituent power (creativity, novelty, freedom) can be institutionally approximated and continually reexperienced.
Translated title of the contributionMellem konstituent magt og politisk form: Mod en teori om rådsdemkorati
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Theory
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)54-82
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 23 May


  • Constituent power
  • Council democracy
  • Radical democracy
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Cornelius Castoriadis

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