Public Trials: Burke, Zola, Arendt, and the Politics of Lost Causes by Lida MaxwellPublic Trials: Burke, Zola, Arendt, and the Politics of Lost Causes by Lida Maxwell

Public Trials: Burke, Zola, Arendt, and the Politics of Lost Causes

byLida Maxwell

Paperback | October 15, 2016

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There are certain moments, such as the American founding or the Civil Rights Movement, that we revisit again and again as instances of democratic triumph, and there are other moments that haunt us as instances of democratic failure. How should we view moments of democratic failure, when boththe law and citizens forsake justice? Do such moments reveal a wholesale failure of democracy or a more contested failing, pointing to what could have been, and still might be?Public Trials reveals the considerable stakes of how we understand democratic failure. Maxwell argues against a tendency in the thinking of Plato, Rousseau and contemporary theorists to view moments of democratic failure as indicative of the failure of democracy, insomuch as such thinking leads to adeference to authority that unintentionally encourages complicity in elite and legal failures to assure justice. In contrast, what Maxwell calls "lost cause narratives" of democratic failure reveal the contingency of democratic failure by showing that things "could have been" otherwise -- and, withpublic action and response, might yet be. A politics of lost causes calls for democratic responsiveness to failure via practices of resistance, theatrical claims-making, and re-narration.Maxwell makes a powerful case for the politics of lost causes by examining public controversies over trials. She focuses on the dilemmas and diagnoses of democratic failure in four instances: Edmund Burke's speeches and writings on the Warren Hastings trial in late eighteenth century Britain, EmileZola's writings on the Dreyfus Affair in late nineteenth century France, Hannah Arendt's writings on the Eichmann trial in 1960's Israel, and Kathryn Bigelow's recent narration of (the lack of) trials of alleged terrorist detainees in Zero Dark Thirty. Maxwell marshals her subtle, historicallygrounded readings of these texts to show the dangers of despairing of democracy altogether, as well as the necessity of re-narrating instances of democratic failure so as to cultivate public responsiveness to such failures in the future.
Lida Maxwell is Associate Professor of Political Science at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
Title:Public Trials: Burke, Zola, Arendt, and the Politics of Lost CausesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:240 pagesPublished:October 15, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190649844

ISBN - 13:9780190649845

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Editorial Reviews

"It is a rare gift to encounter a book as historically textured and politically provocative as lPublic Trials... Drawing from a wide range of historical and contemporary political phenomena - from the abuses of the East India Company in the eighteenth century to the recent case of the allegedterrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and from Hannah Arendt's review of the comedic writing of Nathalie Sarraute to an original and persuasive reading of Kathryn Bigelow's 2012 film, lZero Dark Thirty - Maxwell puts these disparate subjects into conversation with one another in exciting,unorthodox ways. Maxwell treats her readers to a rich, productively paradoxical, nonlinear story of democratic promise and downfall, the realization and impossibility of justice, and the indispensability and limitations of law." --lPerspectives on Politics