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Comparative Democratic Theory

Alexander Weiss

Abstract

This article sketches a theoretical framework and research agenda for what is labeled as “Comparative Democratic Theory.” It is introduced as an approach to democratic theory which is informed by conceptual and methodological debates from “Comparative Political Theory” (CPT) as well as from insights from a global history of democratic thought. The inclusion of CPT perspectives into democratic theory is motivated by what is diagnosed as a conceptual blindness in Western democratic theory. When following this approach, however, the two extremes of unjustified universalism and normatively problematic relativism both must be avoided. To do so, a mode of sound abstraction is proposed, using the term “constellation,” and a discussion of aims and benefits of Comparative Democratic Theory is presented.

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Contagious Humanism in Early Nineteenth-Century German-Language Press

Heidi Hakkarainen

Abstract

This article explores the ways the emerging concept of humanism was circulated and defined in early nineteenth-century German-language press. By analyzing a digitized corpus of German-language newspapers and periodicals published between 1808 and 1850, this article looks into the ways the concept of humanism was employed in book reviews, news, political reports, and feuilleton texts. Newspapers and periodicals had a significant role in transmitting the concept of humanism from educational debates into general political language in the 1840s. Furthermore, in an era of growing social problems and political unrest, humanism became increasingly associated with moral sentiments. Accordingly, this article suggests that its new political meanings and emotional underpinnings made humanism culturally contagious, particularly immediately before and during the 1848/49 revolutions.

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Editorial

Jean-Paul Gagnon

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Eternity and Print

How Medieval Ideas of Time Influenced the Development of Mechanical Reproduction of Texts and Images

Bennett Gilbert

Abstract

The methods of intellectual history have not yet been applied to studying the invention of technology for printing texts and images ca. 1375–ca. 1450. One of the several conceptual developments in this period reflecting the possibility of mechanical replication is a view of the relationship of eternity to durational time based on Gregory of Nyssa's philosophy of time and William of Ockham's. The article considers how changes in these ideas helped enable the conceptual possibilities of the dissemination of ideas. It describes a direct connection of human perceptual knowledge to divine knowledge that enhanced the authority of printed production to transfer and reproduce the true and the good.

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From “De Facto King” to Peasants’ Communes

A Struggle for Representation in the Discourse of the Polish Great Emigration, 1832–1846/48

Piotr Kuligowski

Abstract

This article presents a conceptual history of representation in the political debates of the Polish émigré community in the period 1832–1846/48. As I argue, while the concept was present in the output of all political environments of the Polish Great Emigration, there were more discrepancies than similarities about how to understand it. As a result of debates about what the Polish diaspora in exile actually was and who had the right to represent it, the concept became a part and parcel of political frays. In this way, the right to use it—and consequently to represent the whole Polish community and Polish nation as well—occupied a central place in the evolution of the concept of representation.

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Globalizing the Intellectual History of Democracy

Samuel Moyn and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Interview in Brief

Samuel Moyn provides insight into how the history of democracy can continue its globalization. There is a growing belief that the currently acceptable fund of ideas has not served the recent past well which is why an expansion, a planetary one, of democracy's ideas is necessary – especially now as we move deeper into the shadow of declining American/Western imperialism and ideology. Deciding which of democracy's intellectual traditions to privilege is driven by a mix of forced necessity and choice: finding salient ground for democracy is likely only possible in poisoned traditions including European ones.

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Investigating the Investigators

French Colonial Attempts to Supervise Its Policing System during the 1930s*

Ruth Ginio

Abstract

Three cases of re-opened murder investigations in French West Africa are at the heart of this article. My aim is to examine these cases as a lens into everyday colonial policing that was not directly linked to major anti-colonial protests. All three inquiries into low-ranking colonial officers and the way they conducted their investigations took place during the 1930s, in Mauritania, Senegal, and Dahomey. While their circumstances were different, the cases reflect the flawed and unprofessional character of colonial investigations. They also demonstrate that murder investigations—as well as criticism of them—were powered by two crucial French colonial notions: the maintenance of public order and the ideology of the civilizing mission.

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The Limits of Liberal Democracy

Prospects for Democratizing Democracy

Viviana Asara

Abstract

This critical commentary discusses Stephan Lessenich's recent work on democracy. It argues that—to understand the structural boundaries of welfare capitalist democracy—we must critically unearth the limits of liberal democracy. This article first maintains that the absence of an economic democratization dimension is an outcome of liberal democracy's shrinking of the meaning of the political. It next claims that defining democracy in terms of rights does not duly consider how these unfolded historically and recently, nor clarifies their relation with negative freedom. The article then contends that the environmentally destructive dialectic of democracy and the belittlement of reproductive work stem from the constitution of a narrowly defined economic sphere, from which “reproductive activities” are excluded. Finally, the text reflects on what “democratizing democracy” should entail.

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The Modernity of Political Representation

Its Innovative Thrust and Transnational Semantic Transfers during the Sattelzeit (Eighteenth to Nineteenth Centuries)

Samuel Hayat and José María Rosales

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Neoliberalism, the Left and the Rise of the Far Right

On the Political and Ideological Implications of Capitalism's Subordination of Democracy

Costas Panayotakis

Abstract

After analyzing the tension between capitalism and liberal democracy, this article explores two ways that the political left has tried to navigate this tension. Both these strategies prevent parties of the left and the center-left from exposing capitalism's undemocratic implications, while also helping to discredit political democracy. Unable to unify working people and ordinary citizens against the suffering that capitalism inflicts on them, the left inadvertently makes it possible for the far right to channel people's discontent in ways that attack liberal democracy and turn working people against each other. Last but not least, the discrediting of democracy that results from these processes gives rise to a vicious cycle by also encouraging the adoption of neoliberal policies, which further intensify the subordination of democratically elected governments to capitalist interests.