New essay out at Theory & Event –here–
This essay places modern theories of universal suffrage in dialogue with instruments designed to make the voice of the people sensible: colored ballots, daguerreotypes, automatic voting booths. It does so to argue that the expanding franchise across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came at an unexpected price: as suffrage expanded, the idea of popular voice contracted. Early struggles for suffrage identified the vox populi‘s manifestation with the egalitarian transformation of everyday life, but the twentieth century witnessed its contraction into liberal theories of preference aggregation. The universalizing itinerary of suffrage therefore came at the cost of an emaciated democratic imagination.