Frontier Democracy: A Thinking of Deconstruction





Published date: 

六月, 2015


Shih-chian Hung


The flows of economic globalization highlight the tensions among marketing logic, sovereignty, and human rights. What this comes to reveal is the fact that a fully enclosed border becomes impractical, that is, the functionality of the sovereign state in terms of controlling the border has met its predicament. Under globalization, how will the new global political community maintain its core values such as freedom, human rights, democracy and justice, as the notion of sovereignty is no longer viewed in terms of a unitary nation? Hence, the need to thoroughly reflect on politics and its relevant concepts has become all the more urgent. We can no longer continue to simplify notions such as a border, democracy or citizenship under the rubric of a nation state. Instead, we have to rethink and recompose these notions in the hope of finding a new way for today’s political problem.

Balibar and Derrida unanimously propose the concepts of “frontier democracy” and “democracy to come” in order to discuss the formation of a nation state and the predicaments that it faces. Then the two concepts are considered in an attempt to respond to the question of the age of globalization and to consider whether there is any space for hospitality for the strangers in the new political community.

The concept of “democracy to come” will go beyond the sovereign notion such as the nation state. However, this does not mean that we need to abrogate the sovereignty of a nation, but to constantly engage in, reform, and create new ways of sharing with the sovereign. As such, we can no longer approach citizenship only from a unitary standpoint. By doing this, the dominated border is opened, and the “strangers” such as refugees, vagabonds, migrant workers, and people without documents (sans papiers) are allowed to enter the system of “citizenship.” This not only provides them with hospitality but also allows them to feel accepted and to know their alterity again.

Deconstructive frontier democracy goes beyond notions such as borders and citizens in the rubric of a sovereign nation, and seeks to decriminalize notions such as being an illegal immigrant, smuggling, and statelessness. This way of approaching the issues drives us to go beyond the notion of a nation state in order to form a sort of citizenship without community (citoyenneté sans communauté). In addition, it enables us to realize the idea/ideal of being a world citizen—that is, being human and in a space reflecting openness and multiplicity—which makes the task of rethinking the border become an existential foundation.