Radical Democracy Colloquium with Andrew Dilts: Crisis, Critique, and Abolitionist Futures


Wednesday, Jan 25 2023 | 18:30 CET

Conference Room, Department of Political Science

Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Vienna

This is a hybrid event. To request Zoom login data, please write us at predef.erc@univie.ac.at 

Abolitionist critique teaches us that the work of prison and political abolition […] is in the building of communities of safety, mutual accountability, and shared liberation. It is in the democratic building of democracy.

-- Andrew Dilts, Crisis, Critique, and Abolition, 247

Among the most radical ambitions of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020 were to defund the police, dismantle the prison-industrial complex, abolish the death penalty, and decriminalize migration. These demands stand in the tradition of abolitionism, dating back to the Black struggle for emancipation and the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. Importantly, abolitionism never settled for a merely negative refusal of the given order. Rather, as already W.E.B. Du Bois emphasized with his notion of "Abolition Democracy", negating the status quo had to be entangled with forging new relations, bonds, and institutions.

Against this background, Andrew Dilts turns to abolitionism in a time of seemingly vanishing political alternatives and a resurgence of "left melancholia" as well as reformist realism. He argues that Abolition Democracy is "deeply materialist" and at the same time "a project to expand our political imagination". What is more, "abolition offers a robust model of critique, especially suited to our current moment, precisely because it is an open-ended project of world-building". In his talk, Andrew Dilts thus explores prospects of envisioning abolitionist futures for radicalizing and deepening democracy.

Andrew Dilts is associate professor of political theory at Loyola Marymount University.