The Ends of Democracy: Populist Strategies, Skepticism about Democracy, and the Quest for Popular Sovereignty

November 7-9, 2017
SESC Unidade Pompeia
São Paulo, Brazil

The rise of populist movements in recent years raises questions about the challenges for liberal democracy and its basic institutional forms. For instance, what are “the ends” of democracy in a double sense: what are the ends of democracy, that is, its purposes and promises, but also, what is the possibility of a collapse of democracy as a specific political form of government or an ideal for existing forms?  What meaning, if any, can be given to popular sovereignty during this time, and how does it relate to prevalent ideas of populism?  Following the spirit of the critical approach formulated by the Frankfurt generation of Critical Theory, this conference brings together philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists and psychoanalysts from a range of countries to address the need for a reactualization of critical theory in light of present political challenges. Hosted by the Universidade de São Paulo Department of Philosophy in collaboration with UC Berkeley, it is the second meeting of the conference cycle of the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs.


Paula Biglieri, Universidad de Buenos Aires
Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkeley
Natalia Brizuela, University of California, Berkeley
Susan Buck-Morss, CUNY Graduate Center
Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
Monique David-Ménard, Université de Paris VII
Rodrigo de la Fabián, Universidad Diego Portales
Christian Dunker, Universidade de São Paulo
Zeynep Gambetti, Boğazici University
Rahel Jaeggi, Humboldt Universität, Germany
Jimmy Casas Klausen, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro
Juan Obarrio, Johns Hopkins University
Suely Rolnik, Universidade Católica de São Paulo
Vladimir Safatle, Universidade de São Paulo

Natalia Brizuela (UC Berkeley)
Judith Butler (UC Berkeley)
Vladimir Safatle (Universidade de São Paulo)

Organized by the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs (UC Berkeley) and Departamento de Filosofia da Universidade de São Paulo.

Supported by a grant to the University of California, Berkeley from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


As conferências contarão com tradução simultânea.
Simultaneous interpretation provided.

Tuesday, November 7
Abertura / Opening
Natalia Brizuela (UC Berkeley), Judith Butler (UC Berkeley), and Vladimir Safatle (Universidade de São Paulo)

10:30  – 12:45
Liberdade e a guerra no “social” na política autoritaria do século XXI / Freedom and the War on the “Social” in Twenty-First Century Authoritarian Politics
Wendy Brown (UC Berkeley)

Soberanias resilientes: uma nova ficção onto-política da vida e da identidade / Resilient Sovereignties: A New Onto-Political Fiction of Life and Identity
Rodrigo de la Fábian (Universidad Diego Portales)

Debatedora / Respondent
Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt Universität)

14:30 – 16:45
Insumisas: massas, assembléias, corpos / Insumisas: Masses, Assemblies, Bodies
Natalia Brizuela (UC Berkeley)

O abuso da vida. Matriz do inconsciente colonial-capitalistístico/ The Abuse of Life:
The Colonial-Capitalist Unconscious Matrix
Suely Rolnik (PUC – SP)

Debatedora / Respondent
Paula Biglieri (Universidad de Buenos Aires)

Wednesday, November 8
10:30 –12:45

A condição pós-totalitária / The Post-Totalitarian Condition
Zeynep Gambetti (Boğaziçi University)

Modos da regressão: o caso do ressentiment / Modes of Regression: The Case of Ressentiment
Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt Universität)

Debatedor / Respondent
Jimmy Casas Klausen (PUC – Rio)

14:30 – 16:45
Políticas Revoluçionarias hoje / Revolutionary Politics Today
Susan Buck-Morss (CUNY Graduate Center)

A força da revolução e os limites da democracia / The Force of Revolution and the Limits of Democracy
Vladimir Safatle (Universidade de São Paulo)

Debatedora / Respondent
Wendy Brown (UC Berkeley)

Thursday, November 9
10:30 – 12:45

O animismo da propriedade: a dimensão inconsciente das políticas democráticas /  The Animism of Property: Unconscious Dimensions of Democratic Politics
Monique David-Ménard (Université de Paris VII)

Reflexões para tempos de democracia e morte: Populismo autoritário, democracia selvagem e morrer bem / Thoughts for the Times on Democracy and Death: Authoritarian Populism, Savage Democracy, and Dying Well
Jimmy Casas Klausen (PUC – Rio)

Debatedor / Respondent
Juan Obarrio (Johns Hopkins University)

14:30 – 16:45
Sete teses sobre Populismo: alguns aspectos para debater / Seven Theses on Populism: Some Aspects to Debate
Paula Biglieri (Universidad de Buenos Aires)

O ato cardeal da democracia: Lacan sobre a política / The Cardinal Act of Democracy: Lacan and Politics
Christian Dunker (Universidade de São Paulo)

Debatedora / Respondent
Zeynep Gambetti (Boğaziçi University)

Encerramento / Closing
Natalia Brizuela (UC Berkeley), Judith Butler (UC Berkeley), and Vladimir Safatle (Universidade de São Paulo)

For more information, contact The conference will be video recorded. Information about viewing to be announced. 

The International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs is housed at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University and is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The task of this international consortium is to document, connect, and support the various programs and projects that now represent critical theory across the globe. Through its work, the Consortium aims to document the global contours of critical theory today, supporting critical thought both inside and outside the university in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and science and technology studies, and seeking collaborative ways to become critically responsive to pressing global challenges.

For information, contact