Brown Bag: in the Post-Democratic Condition
In scholarly literature, political subjectivity is often ascribed to those virtuous individuals who do not see voting as the principal duty/responsibility toward their political community, but instead remain proactive in the public life in-between elections. These have been called differently – "monitorial citizens" (Schudson), "effective citizens" (Steele), "critical citizens" (Norris), "radical citizens" (Mouffe) and, ultimately, "activist citizens" (Isin) – but rarely has the process of citizens' political subject-formation been investigated in societies that lack "civic culture" necessary for the development of civil competence and civic autonomy that are, in turn, seen as the precondition for civic engagement. By using as a case study three instances of activist citizenship Montenegro – a post-socialist, (post-)transition society that has been shown to have the lowest rate of unconventional political participation and civic activism in the post-Yugoslav space – I investigate reasons behind citizens' abandonment of institutional venues of civic/political participation and, by drawing on theoretical framework proposed by Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot, explore "orders of worth" they invoke and "moral grammars" they appeal to in order to justify/legitimize their contentious actions. By doing so, I discern three trajectories of political subject-formation in the post-socialist space: political becoming, political bonding, and political universalizing. I argue that only by understanding, firstly, citizens' reasons for their abandonment of institutional venues of political participation and, secondly, their emic understandings of civic activism can we answer the questions of why and how ordinary people (re)politicize depoliticized issues and perform their citizenship by resisting the state power within an illiberal democracy.