Policing an Occupied Legislature: Symbolic Struggle over the Police Image in Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement

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Abstract

This article uses images of policing produced in the context of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement to explore the place of police in democracy. I distinguish five different ways the police–society relationship came to be represented over the course of this movement. I argue that these images of police were performative: they had real effects on the trajectory of the event. To understand these effects, I use a theoretical framework which links the rise of internet technologies to a shift in the cultural dimension of state formation. From this perspective, the driving force of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement appears as a symbolic disjuncture between two contradictory ideals of democracy. On the one hand is a radical ideal, in which a constituent power is founded directly in the meaningful processes of public will formation. On the other hand is a liberal ideal, in which the relative autonomy of a constituted state is necessary to protect civil order against political chaos. The police are situated at a point of material contradiction between these radical and liberal imaginaries. To the degree that police powers are based on the rule of law, they are founded in the liberal ideal, which makes them vulnerable to the “imagefare” tactics of radical-democratic social movements.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-248
JournalHong Kong Law Journal
Volume45
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

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police
democracy
chaos
state formation
constitutional state
Social Movements
tactics
autonomy
Internet
event

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title = "Policing an Occupied Legislature: Symbolic Struggle over the Police Image in Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement",
abstract = "This article uses images of policing produced in the context of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement to explore the place of police in democracy. I distinguish five different ways the police–society relationship came to be represented over the course of this movement. I argue that these images of police were performative: they had real effects on the trajectory of the event. To understand these effects, I use a theoretical framework which links the rise of internet technologies to a shift in the cultural dimension of state formation. From this perspective, the driving force of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement appears as a symbolic disjuncture between two contradictory ideals of democracy. On the one hand is a radical ideal, in which a constituent power is founded directly in the meaningful processes of public will formation. On the other hand is a liberal ideal, in which the relative autonomy of a constituted state is necessary to protect civil order against political chaos. The police are situated at a point of material contradiction between these radical and liberal imaginaries. To the degree that police powers are based on the rule of law, they are founded in the liberal ideal, which makes them vulnerable to the “imagefare” tactics of radical-democratic social movements.",
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AB - This article uses images of policing produced in the context of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement to explore the place of police in democracy. I distinguish five different ways the police–society relationship came to be represented over the course of this movement. I argue that these images of police were performative: they had real effects on the trajectory of the event. To understand these effects, I use a theoretical framework which links the rise of internet technologies to a shift in the cultural dimension of state formation. From this perspective, the driving force of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement appears as a symbolic disjuncture between two contradictory ideals of democracy. On the one hand is a radical ideal, in which a constituent power is founded directly in the meaningful processes of public will formation. On the other hand is a liberal ideal, in which the relative autonomy of a constituted state is necessary to protect civil order against political chaos. The police are situated at a point of material contradiction between these radical and liberal imaginaries. To the degree that police powers are based on the rule of law, they are founded in the liberal ideal, which makes them vulnerable to the “imagefare” tactics of radical-democratic social movements.

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