Frontier Democracy: A Thinking of Deconstruction





Published date: 

June, 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.