The main idea that is advocated in this study is that a radical democratic theory needs a theory of dissent as one of its core concepts. The argument is made in favour of the view that a radical democratic theory requires a conception of justice as participatory parity and an account that makes change intelligible. The thesis defends the claim that Nancy Fraser’s concept of justice as participatory parity combined with Ernesto Laclau’s insights on populist democracy and hegemony best suits this requirement. This study is done within the framework of radical democracy. It is argued that by radical democracy is meant a form of democracy that is more democratic than liberal democracy. The connection between radical and liberal democracy lies in the fact that radical democratic theories are usually based on a critique of liberal institutionalism. Radical democracy, it is argued, is a view of democracy that is radical in relation to liberal democracy and towards democracy itself. To be radical towards democracy implies that radical democracy always stretches the boundaries of democracy.
Dissent, as portrayed in this thesis, ties radical democratic theory to institutional reality and to the theory of social movements. The main idea is that dissent stems from disagreement with society’s institutional arrangements and that this feature inspires movements to target those institutions.
A separate political theory of dissent is important for the sake of showing that dissent can and should be viewed as a positive and constructive feature in society. Dissent is positive and constructive for many reasons: it fosters democratic citizenship, it aims to remove injustices, and it may improve the institutional framework and strengthens participatory parity in society.