Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Intangible, ideal, and imminent, the principles of democracy are objects of belief. Because of that, democracy cannot exist without belief. While that belief might be the cause of what Lauren Berlant calls “cruel optimism,” this chapter argues that belief in belief is a self-perpetuating source of resilience and aspiration among citizens of a democracy; as the political theorist William Connolly writes, “a positive existential spirituality” enables “a positive attachment to the world.” This essay centers on nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century spiritualism and the philosophy of John Dewey to explore the relationship between belief, attachment, and conscientious democratic reform. It argues that the phenomenology of belief is—or should be—at the center of the spirit of democracy, the “democracy-to-come.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDemocracies in America
Subtitle of host publicationKeywords for the Nineteenth Century and Today
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780198865698
ISBN (Print)9780192871879
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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