Democracy as Sociocultural Project of Individual and Collective Sovereignty:Claude Lefort, Marcel Gauchet and the French Debate on Modern Autonomy
AbstractFrench political philosophy has experienced a renewal over the last twenty years. One of its leading projects is Marcel Gauchet’s reflection on democracy and religion. This project situates itself within the context of the French debate on modernity and autonomy launched by the work of Cornelius Castoriadis. Gauchet’s work makes a significant contribution to this debate by building on the pioneering work of Lefort on the political self-instituting capacity of modern societies and the associated shift from religion to ideology. It thus explores the centrality of the notion of sovereignty in the advent of liberal democracy and conducts this reflection within an overall discussion of the role played by Christianity in the genesis of European modernity. It elaborates an anthropology of modernity which explores the relationship between individualism and democracy and redefines modernity as a project of sovereignty which aims at creating a radically new society, the society of individuals.