Hjermann, A. R. (2023). Depoliticising democracy through discourse: Reading Russia’s descent into autocracy and war with Jacques Rancière’s political theory. New Perspectives, 31(2), 49-76.
This article investigates the role of discourses in processes of deepening authoritarianism and war. By bringing Jacques Rancière’s works on politics and depoliticisation into dialogue with poststructuralist discourse analysis, the article argues that discursive depoliticisation contributes towards authoritarian consolidation and shows how authoritarianism deepens in a co-dependent nexus of domestic and international politics. Focusing in particular on Rancière’s concept of gaps, the article argues that the core mechanism of depoliticisation is to neutralise the gap constitutive of politics proper and that this neutralisation unfolds in discourse, through the logics of archipolitics, parapolitics, metapolitics and ultrapolitics. The article (1) develops a framework for unpacking discursive depoliticisation empirically by conceptualising Rancière’s logics as ideal-typical depoliticising discourses and (2) applies that framework in an analysis of Russian official discourse in recent years (2015–2023). The article thereby explains how discursive constructions have strengthened Russian autocracy: entrenched depoliticising discourses, produced and reinforced in a co-constitutive internal/external sphere, made possible authoritarian consolidation in Russia under Putin and its war on Ukraine. The article puts forward the concept of discursive depoliticisation as a novel perspective on ‘hybrid’ and authoritarian regimes, as well as Russia’s intensified war on Ukraine and full-on autocracy from 2022 onwards.