Democracy and the Foreigner by Bonnie Honig

By Bonnie Honig

What should still we do approximately foreigners? may still we strive to cause them to extra like us or retain them at bay to guard our democracy, our tradition, our overall healthiness? This hassle underlies age-old debates approximately immigration, citizenship, and nationwide identification which are strikingly appropriate at the present time. In Democracy and the Foreigner, Bonnie Honig reverses the query: What difficulties may perhaps foreigners remedy for us? Hers isn't really a traditional procedure. rather than lauding the achievements of person foreigners, she probes a miles greater issue--the symbolic politics of foreignness. In doing so she indicates not just how our debates over foreignness support shore up our nationwide or democratic identities, yet how anxieties endemic to liberal democracy themselves animate ambivalence towards foreignness.

Central to Honig's arguments are tales that includes ''foreign-founders,'' during which the origins or revitalization of a humans rely on a foreigner's strength, advantage, perception, or legislations. From such renowned video clips because the Wizard of oz., Shane, and Strictly Ballroom to the biblical tales of Moses and Ruth to the parable of an immigrant the US, from Rousseau to Freud, foreignness is represented not only as a risk yet as a complement for groups periodically requiring renewal. Why? Why do humans inform tales within which their societies are depending on strangers?

One of Honig's such a lot magnificent conclusions is that an appreciation of the position of foreigners in (re)founding peoples works neither completely as a worldly nor a nationalist source. for instance, in the USA, nationalists see one archetypal foreign-founder--the naturalized immigrant--as reconfirming the attract of deeply held American values, while to cosmopolitans this immigrant represents the deeply transnational personality of yankee democracy. students and scholars of political idea, and all these considering the dilemmas democracy faces in accommodating distinction, will locate this publication wealthy with beneficial and stimulating insights.

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Rousseau’s text is performative in character. What if, rather than argue for the legitimation Rousseau seeks, Rousseau’s text tries to bring that legitimacy into being with an origin story? 59 The price of that exorcism is high: the introduction of the lawThe Foreigner as Founder 37 giver-scapegoat and the erasure of the people’s miraculously successful willing of the General Will. Perhaps the greatest virtue of this reading is that the foreignness of Rousseau’s lawgiver suddenly makes sense.

That Rousseau, a xenophobic theorist of self-identity, should himself rely on the figure of the foreign-founder shows just how inescapable and thoroughgoing is this sense of the law’s alien character, even in a particularly well-ordered regime, which is what Rousseau thought he was theorizing in the Social Contract. Indeed, Rousseau knew this: noting that the task of the legislator is to “change human nature,” Rousseau says that in order to do this the legislator must “deny man his own forces in order to give him forces that are alien [in another translation, the term—“e´trange`res” in the original—is rendered “foreign”] to him and that he cannot make use of without the help of others” (Book II, Chapter 7; emphasis added).

Out to discredit “ascriptive mythologies that can easily become demonologies,” Smith produces an argument that is itself demonological in structure. The many violent crimes and injustices that mark American national history are not essential to its character as a partly liberal democratic regime. Those violences come from elsewhere, from other parts of the American polity. Ascriptive ideologies distinct from liberalism are responsible for the nativist, sexist, and racist citizenship laws and arguments catalogued by Smith.

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