This article presents three models of emergency politics—deliberative (Elaine Scarry), promiscuous (Douglas Crimp), and legalist (Louis Freeland Post)—and assesses their promise and limits for democratic theory and practice. Emergency politics names not the friend/enemy decisionism of Carl Schmitt but rather the idea that emergency may be taken to promote a focus not just on survival but also on sur-vivance—a future-oriented practice of countersovereignty. One model of this alternative form of emergency politics can be found in the Slow Food movement, which incorporates elements from all three models and embraces the paradox of politics that underwrites democratic politics in general.
I am grateful for comments on early drafts of this paper to Sam Chambers, Paul Bové, and two readers for boundary 2, as well as to audiences in Sweden (at a Tankekraft event) and Australia, at “The Politics of Citizenship in the Era of Human Rights” conference, convened by Anna Yeatman and Jessica Whyte at the Whitlam Institute, University of Western Sydney, August 2012. At this last, the question of climate emergency was usefully urged on me, and Charles Barbour served as discussant, for which I thank him. Thanks also to Anna Terwiel, who prepared the manuscript for publication.