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Reviews

The Environment as an Umbrella Concept; From Word to Historical Concept

Risto-Matti Matero and Juan Alejandro Pautasso

Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin, The Environment: A History of the Idea (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2018), 244 pp.

Fabio Wasserman, ed., El mundo en movimiento: El concepto de revolución en Iberoamérica y el Atlántico norte (siglos XVII–XX) [The world in motion: The concept of revolution in Iberian America and the North Atlantic (seventeenth–twentieth centuries)] (Buenos Aires: Miño y Dávila editores, 2019), 293 pp.

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Solidarity in Times of Pandemics

Barbara Prainsack

Abstract

This short article discusses how the COVID-19 crisis has affected solidarity. It starts by defining solidarity in such a way that it can be distinguished from other types of support and pro-social practice, and by arguing that solidarity can manifest itself at three different levels: at the inter-personal level, the group level, or at the level of legal and contractual norms. Drawing upon findings from two ongoing studies on personal and societal effects of the COVID-19 crisis, I then go on to argue that, while forms of inter-personal solidarity have been shifting even during the first weeks and months of the crisis, the importance of institutionalized solidarity is becoming increasingly apparent. The most resilient societies in times of COVID-19 have not been those with the best medical technology or the strictest pandemic containment measures, but those with good public infrastructures and other solidaristic institutions.

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Theorizing Democracy in a Pandemic

Peter Levine

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic raises questions about the future of democracy and civil society. Some recent predictions seem to use the suffering to score points in ongoing political arguments. As a better example of how to describe the future during a crisis, I cite the prophetic voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. King does not merely predict: he calls for action, joins the action, and makes himself responsible for its success or failure. With these cautions about prediction in mind, I venture two that may guide immediate responses. First, communities may erect or strengthen unjustifiable barriers to outsiders, because boundaries enhance collective action. Second, although the pandemic may not directly change civic behavior, an economic recession will bankrupt some organizations through which people engage.

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Time and Space in Time and Space

Mapping the Conceptual History of Mental Maps and Historical Consciousness

Janne Holmén

Abstract

Mental maps and historical consciousness, which describe the spatial and temporal dimensions of worldviews, are not, as commonly stated, twentieth century concepts. Historical consciousness was coined simultaneously by several German scholars in the mid-1800s. Mental maps, used in English since the 1820s, had a prominent role in US geography education from the 1880s. Since then, the concepts have traveled between practical-technical, educational, and academic vocabularies, cross fertilizing fields and contributing to the formation of new research questions. However, when these initial periods of reflection gave way to empirical investigation, strict intra-disciplinary definitions of the concepts have strengthened disciplinary borders by excluding the interpretations of the same concepts in other fields.

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Voluntarism

Promises of Proximity as Articulated by Changing Moral Elites

Anders Sevelsted

Abstract

The article analyzes the varied meanings historically associated with concepts of voluntarism in relation to social relief as they were articulated by changing moral elites in Denmark from the late nineteenth century until the present. Concepts of voluntarism have historically constituted “normative counterconcepts” that link voluntary practices to desired futures in opposition to alternative modes of organizing. The “proximity” of voluntarism vis-à-vis the “distance” of the state has always been a core meaning, but the concept has drifted across the political spectrum from its first articulation by nineteenth-century conservative Christians to its rediscovery by leftist social researchers in the late twentieth century. Paradoxically, the welfare state helped “proximity” become a core meaning, in contrast to its original social-conservative meaning emphasizing proximity and distance.

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Who Governs in Deep Crises?

The Case of Germany

Wolfgang Merkel

Abstract

The Berlin Republic of today is neither Weimar (1918–1932) nor Bonn (1949–1990). It is by all standards the best democracy ever on German soil. Nevertheless, during the COVID-19 crisis there was a shift from democracy as a mode of governance to what the controversial legal theorist Carl Schmitt (1922) affirmingly described as a “state of exception”; a state that is desired and approved by the people (through opinion polls). It was the hour of the executive. The parliament disempowered itself. There was very little, if any, contestation or deliberation during the first eight weeks of the COVID-19 crisis. This article reflects on the implications of this mode of governance on institutions and actors of democracy in Germany, and offers a way of assessing the wellbeing of democracies in times of deep crisis.

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Against Analogy

Why Analogical Arguments in Support of Workplace Democracy Must Necessarily Fail

Roberto Frega

Abstract

This article asks whether the analogy between state and firm is a promising strategy for promoting workplace democracy and provides a negative answer, explaining why analogical arguments are not a good strategy for justifying workplace democracy. The article contends that the state-firm analogy is misguided for at least three reasons: (1) it is structurally inconclusive, (2) it is based on a category mistake, and (3) it leads us away from the central question we should ask, which is: What would concretely imply, and what is required, in order to democratize the workplace? I begin by offering an interpretation of the state-firm analogy which shows that use of the analogical argument in Dahl's justification of workplace democracy engenders excessive and unnecessary theoretical costs which bear negatively on his conclusion. I then proceed to examine more recent contributions to the debate and show that supporters and critics of the state-firm analogy alike do not advance our understanding of the analogical argument. In the last part of the article I provide a general theoretical explanation of why arguments based on the state-firm analogy are not good candidates for defending workplace democracy.

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Agricultural Fire or Arson?

Rural Denizens, Forest Administration, and the Colonial Situation in Algeria (1850–1900)

Antonin Plarier

Abstract

This article focuses on fire management practices in Algeria during the colonial period. Focusing on environmental usages of fires in Algerian rural society, this article shows that these practices were submitted to varied and opposite interpretations resulting in significant and durable conflicts. These conflicts exploded under the French colonial forestry administration, which forcefully imposed new legislation to criminalize existing agricultural practices, including fires. Despite this ban, these practices continued. The administration interpreted this persistence as rebellion and responded with severe sanctions. This only aggravated the situation, resulting in a real war of attrition. On the one hand, this situation does not diverge from the rural violence typical of the nineteenth century. On the other, the responses of the administration in colonial Algeria represent specific digressions compared to the policies carried out in metropolitan areas.

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Baya Hocine's Papers

A Source for the History of Algerian Prisons during the War of Independence (1954–1962)

Sylvie Thénault

Abstract

In 1958, a search of the Barberousse Prison in Algiers led to the confiscation of the journal, notes, and correspondence of Baya Hocine, a 17-year-old female detainee who had been sentenced to death for an attack. Written in the intimate style of a personal diary, Hocine's papers are a valuable source for the historiography of prisons during the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962). The purpose of this article is to reconstruct the trajectory from prison to the French Archives, where they appear in typed form, as well as to shed light on the circumstances under which they were written. While they may be insufficient to reconstitute the actual conditions of life in the prison because they communicate private thoughts, they highlight the radical specificity of Barberousse in these wartime years as a place where people who had been sentenced to death were detained and executed and where death was omnipresent.

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Book Review

Christian Ewert

Joseph Lacey, Centripetal Democracy: Democratic Legitimacy and Political Identity in Belgium, Switzerland, and the European Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 312 pp., ISBN: 9780198796886