Revisiting Carole Pateman's classic discussion of women and consent, this essay advances a qualified defense of consent through defending a second, less hegemonic model of it as articulated most forcefully by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Although difficult to realize, the author argues, consent is indispensable to the very project of a coherent and legitimately democratic politics, especially in the distinction it offers between those differences that can and cannot be politically negotiated. In a context in which the very conditions of politics are under assault, to write off consent as a failed liberal fiction without trying to create actual alternatives is to serve as organic intellectuals to an antipolitical ethos that does not deserve support. As Pateman was arguing against elitist models of the 1970s, the author aims to counter the dangerous excesses of progressive-sounding theoretical models, most especially those fundamentally informed by poststructuralism.

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