The Spectre of Race: How Discrimination Haunts Western Democracy

November 1, 2020
The Spectre of Race: How Discrimination Haunts Western Democracy

How racism and discrimination have been central todemocracies from the classical period to todayAs right-wing nationalism and authoritarian populism gainmomentum across the world, liberals, and even some conservatives,worry that democratic principles are under threat. In TheSpectre of Race, Michael Hanchard argues that the current risein xenophobia and racist rhetoric is nothing new and thatexclusionary policies have always been central to democraticpractices since their beginnings in classical times. Contendingthat democracy has never been for all people, Hanchard discusseshow marginalization is reinforced in modern politics, and why thesecontradictions need to be fully examined if the dynamics ofdemocracy are to be truly understood.Hanchard identifies continuities of discriminatory citizenshipfrom classical Athens to the present and looks at how democraticinstitutions have promoted undemocratic ideas and practices. Thelongest-standing modern democracies—France, Britain, and the UnitedStates—profited from slave labor, empire, and colonialism, muchlike their Athenian predecessor. Hanchard follows these patternsthrough the Enlightenment and to the states and political thinkersof the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and heexamines how early political scientists, including Woodrow Wilsonand his contemporaries, devised what Hanchard has characterized as"racial regimes" to maintain the political and economic privilegesof dominant groups at the expense of subordinated ones. Exploringhow democracies reconcile political inequality and equality,Hanchard debates the thorny question of the conditions under whichdemocracies have created and maintained barriers to politicalmembership.Showing the ways that race, gender, nationality, and othercriteria have determined a person's status in political life,The Spectre ofRace offers important historical context forhow democracy generates political difference and inequality.