A Comparative Study of the Models of Democracy Developed by Habermas, Laclau and Mouffe

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor, Department of Law and Political Science, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Iran

2 Assistant Professor., Department of Law and Political Science, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Iran


There is no doubt nowadays about the attractiveness of democracy as an accepted model of government, and concurrently there is an awareness of its shortcomings and drawbacks. Consequently, many scholars including political philosophers are trying to use different approaches in order to develop proper and more efficient models of democracy. From a post-structuralist point of view, Habermas, Laclau, and Mouffe seek to provide models of democratic politics and government that are more successful in establishing a good democratic order. Considering the conflictive and clashing political and social interests, ideas, and tendencies, it is not an easy task to address the inadequacies of previous models of democracy. By comparing Jürgen Habermas's deliberative theory with the agonistic democratic approach of Laclau and Mouffe, the authors’ objective is to study the two models of democracy proposed by these three thinkers, and find suitable answer to the following key research question: Which of these two post-Marxist theories has more democratic and realistic possibilities? They use qualitative content analysis of written texts to examine the two models of democracy in dealing with the pluralism of values ​​and sources of political and social power. The strengths and weaknesses of each of the two theories are explained, and the democratic possibilities, specifically in terms of the underlying factors of feasibility and achievement are discussed.
The conclusion is that Habermas post-structuralist theory of deliberative democracy will not be able to pave the way for inclusive, adequate and long-lasting democratic rule by bridging the gap between opposing views and interests of a plurality of groups in the social sphere, and overcoming power struggles and conflict of interests through deliberation. In contrast, Laclau and Mouffe's model of democracy is based on the acceptance of dissent and antagonisms, and the idea that oppressive power relations in the societies must be challenged through agonistic contestation. The authors argue that Laclau and Mouffe's model of democracy is more realistic than Habermasian model due to its emphasis on the impossibility of ignoring or removing power struggles, hegemony, antagonisms and conflicts from the society. By recognizing the relations of power in societies and the need to change them, it is more effective for establishing a proper political order.


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