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Agonistic Pluralism Model and Evaluation fo Welcome to Leith

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 3804 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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For a community to effectively function, everyone must be tolerant of others to a very large degree. Intolerance must be tolerated but only to an extent. Karl Popper refers to this as the “paradox of tolerance”: “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

The hard problem of hate speech is where that line—between the speech we must tolerate, no matter how obnoxious, and the hate speech we should not tolerate—is drawn.

Chantal Mouffe’s conception of agonistic democracy insists on a consensus system whereby violent political confrontation ought to be bounded to ensure the stability of democratic conflicts.

According to Mouffe,

“… Adversaries fight against each other because they want their interpretation to become hegemonic, but they do not put into question the right of their opponents to fight for the victory of their position…both share a common allegiance to the democratic principles of ‘liberty and equality for all’ …this confrontation between adversaries is what constitutes the ‘agonistic struggle’ that is the very condition of a vibrant democracy. They envisage the field of politics as a neutral terrain in which different groups compete to occupy positions of power; their objective is simply to dislodge others to occupy their place without putting into question the dominant hegemony and profoundly transforming the relations of power. In an agonistic politics, however, the antagonistic dimension is always present since what is at stake is the struggle between opposing hegemonic projects that can never be reconciled rationally, for one of them needs to be defeated”.

The documentary; Welcome to Leith revolves around the protagonist – Cobb and the antagonists – the exNavy Seal and everyone else in Leith.

The occupants resist the takeover foiling Cobbs plans for Leith. The film provides a close and objective view of the contemporary American far right; a view different from what is usually seen in widely syndicated media.

As individuals, it’s almost impossible to change other people’s minds about their personal beliefs, however, the right choice is to decide the best way to think, act, and live in response to other people’s beliefs and decisions.

Welcome to Leith encapsulates the actions of the white nationalist leader Craig Cobb. A neighbors from hell scenario is witnessed as Craig moves to Leith, North Dakota to take over the place. He incepts the white supremacist tyranny where the whites initiate racism against their neighbors that do not share the same views with. The result of this move was great hatred. The thought that people embraced the ideologies of Craig is absurd and frightening. Supporters of Craig enforced supremacy by using weapons.

Many liberal democratic societies today are experiencing a shift towards deeper and wider political polarization, with fringe parties on both sides of the political spectrum enjoying a rise in popularity. Research shows that people in democratic societies are demanding access to real choices and with them a break with the status-quo consensus that has characterized formal democratic politics.

In addition to this, various forms of extra-institutional political movements with varying content (they are left or right wing, democratic or anti-democratic) continue to be a regular part of liberal democratic societies, despite the proliferation and entrenchment of formal democracy around the world since the Cold war ended. Presence of evidence that the rise of western reformist democracy has instigated civil wars, genocide, the rise of popular dissent and public movement, lesser voting interest and the lack of ability by the government bodies to address the concerns of the public.

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Democratic theorists are critical of the Western liberal democratic regimes and posit that these regimes are far from sufficient or complete. These theorists argue that the trimmings and institutions of liberal democracy are not sufficient. They suggest that there is need for quality and all-inclusiveness of egalitarian activities of social life and within all communal institutions. Democratic theorists postulate that many of the societal problems are caused politically by abandonment of the political element and governmental segregation.

However, Jürgen Habermas (deliberate democracy model) and Chantal Mouffe (agonistic pluralism), both democratic theorists, defer on the process of deepening or extending equality. Agonistic postulations of democracy claim that egalitarianism leads to acceptance of the citizens’ all-around needs including identity, unlike deliberative democracy proponents who claim that efforts to impose unfair and unruly rights into the political circle of the public can lead to conflict and pluralism. Illogical assertions are those that do not apply to the public.

Agonistic Pluralism Model

Defenders of agonistic popular government contend that political clash and contradiction cannot be settled by advances to sanity or evidently shared instincts about equity. Political clash and contradictions must be diminished through unending haggling, that is, dynamic and expressive element of political office. The defenders recommend that as opposed to urging subjects to section their good and social contradictions, society should try to encourage distinctive opinions but deferential political and civic exercise and relations.

As per Chantal Mouffe on the Political (London: Routledge, 2005) and in The Democratic Paradox (London: Verso, 2000) there is a difference between an enemy and an adversary. She proposes that in any nation, the rival ought not to be regarded as a foe to be demolished yet as an enemy whose presence is authentic. In that capacity, although an enemy’s thoughts ought to be battled with power, his entitlement to shield his beliefs ought to never be addressed. A foe, then again, speaks to the individuals who question the key belief systems of pluralist vote-based system and in this manner cannot shape some portion of the agonistic space.

The ‘enemy’ in a pluralist majority rules system is the adversary who shares a typical loyalty to the equitable standards of ‘freedom and balance for all’ however who cannot help contradicting their understanding. The model contends that foes are against one another because they need their translation to be authoritative, yet they don’t put into inquiry the authenticity of their rivals to battle for the triumph of their position (Habermas, 1996).

The contention between enemies is the thing that establishes the ‘agonistic battle’ which is the plain state of a dynamic majority rule government. The fundamental errand of fair governmental issues for the agonistic model is not to slight interests or to consign them to the private circle. The point is to build up a national accord in general social circle which ‘subdues’ so to say those interests by reviving them towards majority rule structures, by making shared types of distinguishing proof around vote-based goals (Habermas, 2009).

As per the comprehension of ‘enemy’ suggested here, and as opposed to the large viewpoint, the existence of a threat is not alienated, though ‘sublimated’. What dissidents allude to as a ‘foe’ is just a ‘contestant’ who rivals others with the aim to possess the places of authority under a non-partisan landscape. The competitor uproots others with the goal to possess their position, without considering the question about the vital authority or seriously changing the associations of authority. However, in agonistic legislative issues, there is a battle between differentiating authoritative activities which can never be solved soundly whereby a section of them should be overpowered. It is a genuine conflict thought one that occurs under circumstances controlled by an arrangement of equitable strategies acknowledged by the foes.

Each social mandate has an authoritative nature, and its starting point is political in nature. The social request is comprised of authoritative exercises, for instance, exercises that cover themselves as unique demonstrations of the political establishment and which seem to continue from a characteristic mandate (Habermas, 2008). For this situation, the social orders result in the present moment and unjustified enunciation of unexpected practices.

The agonistic point of view assesses the way that each social mandate is politically founded, and that the basis upon which authoritative intercessions happen is often biased. It is a war zone on which authoritative activities stand up to each other, without likelihood at all the last compromise (Mouffe, 2005).

A well-working majority rule in the government requires an encounter of popularity based civil places. If this is missing there is dependably the peril that this vote-based encounter will be ousted by a showdown between non-debatable good qualities or essentialist types of recognizable pieces of proof. A lot of accentuation on consensus, alongside revulsion towards showdowns, prompts lack of care and irritation with political investment.

Moving forward, according to Chantal Mouffe, it is this determined single exclusionary action that is hazardous to a well-working self-governing country. She hypothesizes that it is just through the consideration of a different collection of subject spaces that a law based political element can be said to be genuinely characteristic for the nation, and along these lines comprises a successful and comprehensive vote-based system. An agonistic majority rule government is one in which space is given for the potential oppositions that are idle in the social request to end up politically show, emphasized and permitted to be played out (Mouffe, 2013). Even though the agreement is not certainly important, it must be joined by the difference.

The accord is required on the organizations which are constitutive of vote-based system and on the ethical-political qualities that ought to educate the political affiliation, yet there will dependably be a difference regarding the importance of those qualities, and the way they ought to be actualized (Habermas, 2003). In a pluralist majority rules system, such contradictions are not only vital but also authentic. They consider diverse types of citizenship recognizable proof and are the core of vote based legislative issues.

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At the point when the agonistic elements of pluralism are impeded as a result of an absence of popularity-based types of credentials, interests cannot be offered an equitable channel (Mouffe, 2000). Additionally, the platform is prepared for different types of governmental issues revolving around essentialist characters of patriot, racial or spiritual sort and for the duplication of encounters over non-debatable ethical standards.

Deliberative Democracy Model

In recent past, democracy was referred to as an aggregation of interests. Deliberative democracy is a pattern that has dynamically replaced this. Deliberative democracy asserts that political queries are ethical and should, therefore, cultivate consideration and appreciation. Accordingly, a democratic society entails the creation of a consensus which is arrived at through suitable deliberative procedures. The aim of the processes is to make decisions that reflect an independent viewpoint where the societal interests are equally catered for. Some form of consensus or at least procedures by which consensus may be reached over political positions and decisions are vital for a functioning democratic order.

Jürgen Habermas, for example, states that “If questions of justice cannot transcend the ethical self-understanding of contending forms of life, and existentially significant value conflicts and oppositions must penetrate all divisive questions, then, in the final analysis, it ends up with something resembling Carl Schmitt’s understanding of politics”. Habermas argues that the concept of deliberative democracy relies more on procedure than an ethical or rational principle. He posits that deliberative democracy leaves “more questions open” to be discussed and deliberated in the public sphere.

In advocating for deliberative democracy, Habermas is concerned primarily with the question of legality. That is, how it is possible for public institutions that exert political power over citizens to be accepted as legitimate in pluralist societies. He believes that democratic politics in most contemporary liberal democratic result in a passive public or a withdrawal from the political process. The passiveness is evidence in increased non-voting in polity controlled by political elites that operate “relatively independently of society, procures the necessary mass loyalty and determines political goal functions more or less by [themselves].”

Habermas’ solution to this is to remove the impediments to a fuller participation in democratic politics, and the inclusiveness of majority of the voices in the political process. In short, Jürgen Habermas’ model advocates for more inclusive pluralism.


Chantal Mouffe’s agonistic work, introduced on her ontological record of pluralism, gives a solid answer to crafted by leftists, for example, Jürgen Habermas. Because of its attention on political competition and authority, agonistic majority rules system can avail fresh opportunities for shared governmental issues, incorporating on-screen characters that may somehow be barred. Notwithstanding, maybe the genuine quality of Mouffe’s agonistic record of majority rule government lies not as its political arrangement, yet rather that it gives an alternate method for assessing and understanding political avoidance, strife, and contrast.

Despite the quality of Mouffe aggregate compositions on agonistic popular government and radical pluralism, doubts remain concerning aspects of both association and isolation (Schmitt, 1976). For example, Mouffe believes a type of consensus on certain over-arching principles is necessary for agonistic democracy, yet she argues that it is a “conflicted consensus” that should constitute the common symbolic space of an agonistic democracy; a consensus that does not exclude the possibility of fierce political conflict, but a precarious one that is open to constant re-definition by several contending political discourses.

The notion of consensus represents an inconsistency in the conception of agonistic democracy as it risks foreclosing the type of fierce political conflict that is so important for an agonistic conception of democracy and should be eschewed in favor of a purely procedural conception that allows for those political projects that do not have a commitment to the ethical-political standards of freedom and correspondence for all.

However, some people may spread hatred in the society whose development is attributed to democracy. While hatred is regarded a vice before any democratic system of ruling, others still preach hate among their people. According to Mouffe, democracy has a wide range of impacts on the individual growth of people and the development of society (Mouffe, 2000). Therefore, it is not a must to tolerate the presence in our communities of people who preach hate and who do not believe in democracy even if everyone is plying the democratic game by rules.

Democracy permits individuals to have diverse points of view and also makes people responsible for discussing the responses to their perceptions. For instance, it is not only to debate a topic in parliament and succeed, rather it is a matter of supporting what we know our nation requires. Besides, in a democracy, we debate with those who oppose us to come to an agreement for a common good of the society. It does not involve fighting those who do not have a similar view as us but the dialogue is pivotal in democracy.

Mouffe asserts that democracy involves exchanging views and not fighting or preaching hatred (Habermas, 1998). Democracy helps to create a strong base for nationwide reconciliation, for instance, reconciliation between various religious groups and between various ethnic groups. Also, reconciliation between diverse notions like between the notions of military rule and the notions of civilian power over the military, and this is the base of democracy. In this regard, those who spread hatred are detrimental to the development of people and society and they should not be tolerated in society (Mouffe, 2005).

As affirmed by the expanding achievement of the outrageous right in a number of nations, the western society is experiencing an increasing alienation with law-based associations. Such a challenge may have a critical outcome for the future of majority rule government. Sadly, liberal civil based social orders are not well arranged go against the prevalent challenge, because they cannot get a handle on its features. One of the fundamental purposes behind this failure lies in the sort of political hypothesis at present in doubt, overwhelmed for what it is worth by a universalistic, rationalistic, and individualistic structure.

The system deletes the component of the political and blocks imagining in a satisfactory way the idea of a pluralistic vote based open circle (Mouffe, 2013). It is the reason a methodology that uncovers the inconceivability of setting up an accord without prohibition is of basic significance for law-based governmental issues. By noticing people against the deception that a completely accomplished popular government would ever be popular, it compels citizens to keep the vote-based competition active. An “agonistic” vote-based methodology recognizes the genuine idea of its outskirts and perceives the types of avoidance that they encapsulate, rather than attempting to camouflage them under the cover of judiciousness or profound quality.

Familiarity with the way that distinction enables citizens to incorporate totality and solidarity while all the while giving fundamental breaking points is an agonistic methodology that contributes in the disruption of the continuous enticement that exists in majority rule social orders to naturalize their outskirts and validate their characters.

Such a methodology would, consequently, be substantially more responsive than the intentional majority rule government system to the variety of views that a pluralist culture incorporates, and to the multifaceted nature of the ruling system that the framework of contrasts suggests.


Mouffe argues in the principle of agonistic democracy model that an individual or a party that challenges the majority rule or the flow of activities and same point of view amongst people is not an enemy. We should tolerate difference in ideologies and distinctiveness in political ideas but to the extent where peace and fairness exists. However, people should not tolerate preaching of hate in the society as it annihilates peace and co-existence. Encouraging challenge towards a shared political perspective is good. Also, Mouffe’s portrayal of an agonistic vote-based system as a battle between vying for authoritative undertakings is inconsistent with her request. The request postulates that the battle is interceded by a common loyalty among every one of those occupied with the battle to the standards of freedom and balance for all.

If agonistic democracy as characterized by Mouffe is the fierce contest between opposing political agents, each one attempting to gain the empty seat of power by removing ruling discourses and imposing its own discourse on the social order, then a tension arises with her insistence that there must nevertheless be a shared acceptance of the principles of liberty and equality for all among these competing agents. The common reference point that different political agents should share in an agonistic democracy is at odds with the notion that they should also represent opposite hegemonic projects, especially if we understand the principles of liberty and equality to be the main constituents of a discourse: liberalism (Mouffe, 2013)

If liberalism is the common broad field through which opposing political agents interact in an agonistic democracy, whatever differences might otherwise exist between them would be secondary to that which binds them together. It risks the very post-democratic logic that Mouffe complains is overtaking contemporary democratic societies: the different political positions on offer for the electorate advocate minimal differing policies that nevertheless are quite similar given their common grounding in a discourse.


  • Mouffe, Chantal. Agonistics: Thinking the world politically. London: Verso, 2013.
  • Mouffe, Chantal. The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso, 2000.
  • Mouffe, Chantal. The Return of the Political. London: Verso, 2005.
  • Habermas, Jürgen. The Inclusion of the Other. Eds. Ciaran Cronin and Pablo De Greiff, trans. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998. 
  • Habermas, Jürgen. Truth and Justification, trans. B. Fultner. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003
  • Habermas, Jürgen Between Naturalism and Religion, trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge: Polity, 2008.
  • Habermas, Jürgen. Europe: The Faltering Project, trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009.
  • Habermas, Jürgen. Reply to Symposium Participants, Cardozo Law Review, 17, 4-5. 1996.
  • Schmitt, Carl.  The Concept of the Political. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1976.
  • Welcome to Leith. Directed by M.B. Nichols. No Weather Sundial Pictures, 2015


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