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How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Democracy?

Lauri Rapeli and Inga Saikkonen

Abstract

In this commentary, we discuss some possible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in both established and newer democracies. We expect that the pandemic will not have grave long-term effects on established democracies. We assess the future of democracy after COVID-19 in terms of immediate effects on current democratic leaders, and speculate on the long-term effects on support for democratic institutions and principles. We also discuss possible implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global trends in democratic backsliding. We predict that, in the short term, the repercussions of the pandemic can aggravate the situation in countries that are already experiencing democratic erosion. However, the long term economic effects of the pandemic may be more detrimental to non-democratic governance.

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The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Central and Eastern Europe

The Rise of Autocracy and Democratic Resilience

Petra Guasti

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a new and unparalleled stress-test for the already disrupted liberal-representative, democracies. The challenges cluster around three democratic disfigurations: technocracy, populism, and plebiscitarianism—each have the potential to contribute to democratic decay. Still, they can also trigger pushback against illiberalism mobilizing citizens in defense of democracy, toward democratic resilience. This article looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic affects democratic decay and democratic resilience in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). It finds varied responses to the COVID-19 crisis by the CEE populist leaders and identifies two patterns: the rise of autocracy and democratic resilience. First, in Hungary and Poland, the populist leaders instrumentalized the state of emergency to increase executive aggrandizement. Second, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, democracy proved resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic alone is not fostering the rise of authoritarianism. However, it does accentuate existing democratic disfigurations.

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Innovation Policy, Structural Inequality, and COVID-19

Shobita Parthasarathy

Abstract

COVID-19 has shown the world that public policies tend to benefit the most privileged among us, and innovation policy is no exception. While the US government's approach to innovation—research funding and patent policies and programs that value scientists’ and private sector freedoms—has been copied around the world due to its apparent success, I argue that it has hurt poor and marginalized communities. It has limited our understanding of health disparities and how to address them, and hampered access to essential technologies due to both lack of coordination and high cost. Fair and equal treatment of vulnerable citizens requires sensitive and dedicated policies that attend explicitly to the fact that the benefits of innovation do not simply trickle down.

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Introduction

France’s Great War from the Edge

Susan B. Whitney

World War I has been studied extensively by historians of France and for good reason. Waging the first industrial war required mobilizing all of France's resources, whether military, political, economic, cultural, or imperial. Politicians from the left and the right joined forces to govern the country, priests and seminarians were drafted into the army, factories were retooled to produce armaments and other war material, and women and children were enlisted to do their part. So too were colonial subjects. More than 500,000 men from France's empire fought in Europe for the French Army, while another 200,000 colonial subjects labored in France's wartime workplaces. The human losses were staggering and the political, economic, and cultural reverberations long-lasting, both in the metropole and in the colonies. More than 1.3 million French soldiers and an estimated 71,000 colonial soldiers lost their lives, leaving behind approximately 1.1 million war orphans and 600,000 war widows.

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Latin America and COVID-19

Political Rights and Presidential Leadership to the Test

Brigitte Weiffen

Abstract

Latin America was hit by COVID-19 in a moment of (socio-)economic distress and political unrest. This essay reflects on the immediate repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis for democracy in the region. It expounds how responding to the pandemic put to the test the still consolidating democracies with their long-standing defects in the areas of political and civil rights and horizontal accountability. In the course of coping with the crisis, it is precisely in these problem areas that additional risks for democracy have arisen due to infringements of political rights and the performance of presidents. Regarding the latter, the ambiguities of presidential leadership become particularly evident when comparing pragmatic and populist responses to the crisis.

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Le moment Lamennais

Modern Slavery and the Re-description of People (and Democracy) in Spain and Chile

Gonzalo Capellán

Abstract

Upon his controversial and successful publication of Words of a Believer (1834), Lamennais became one of the most influential thinkers in Europe and America. Lamennais's other works, such as Modern Slavery, have received surprisingly less attention, considering that with it he made a re-description of the concept people and consequently of democracy. Lamennais's presentation of the antagonism between liberty and tyranny, between a few oppressors (privileged classes) and the majority of the oppressed (the people) turned him into a key reference for the democratic, republican, and socialist political cultures. We can then speak of a “Lamennais moment” as opposed to the “Guizot moment,” which offered conflicting world views. This article combines an analysis of the translations and circulation of Modern Slavery in Spain and Latin America with the study of the new meanings of the concept people.

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No Demos in the Pandemic

Asma Abbas

Abstract

That the present moment ties multiple crises together—not least because each is a future of pasts that wound(ed) through each other—must be factored into our intercessions and visions. If every crisis is also a call to order, then what order, old or new, does the pandemic call us to? Its literality provokes us to keep both the pan and the demos in sight, just as they are being extinguished through borders, disease, poverty, insecurity, hatred, and disposability in the global postcolony. We are asked to remember that capital and colony are inseparable, that the nation-state is too suspicious a source of comfort, that the eroding claims of citizenship across the postcolonial and post-democratic fascist failed states are instructive and prophetic, and that the assumptions of place and movement in our frames of the democratic political need revisiting.

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Open Borders and the COVID-19 Pandemic

David Owen

Abstract

This paper considers the implications of COVID for open borders. It notes that while COVID concerns do not directly challenge arguments for open borders, the pandemic has revealed two more general phenomena that are salient for such arguments. The first concerns the increasing unmooring of legal borders from physical spaces and the interaction of surveillance and identification technologies with this process. The second addresses the issue of interdependency and the potentially negative implications of open borders if not underpinned by a global basic structure.

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Republican Socialism and Gendered Portrayals of Catholic Masculinity in Nineteenth-Century France

Randolph Miller

Abstract

The popularity of Ultramontanism and the political energy provided by Sacred Heart piety gave French Catholicism of the post-Commune era a militant posture, one that republican socialists saw as antagonistic to their political objectives. This article shows that socialists responded by emasculating their Catholic opponents. Drawing on the materialist tradition that emerged from the Enlightenment and Revolution, and highlighting the resignation and emotive nature of radical Catholic piety, republican socialists maintained that religious belief was evidence of inadequate virility. Speaking to the anxieties of the period, which included concerns about racial degeneration and the adequacy of France on the world stage, this gendering of epistemological convictions allowed socialists to argue for the exclusion of religion and the religious male from French politics.

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Rethinking Democratic Theories of Justice in the Economy after COVID-19

Louise Haagh

Abstract

This article argues that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to light the importance of state democratic capacities linked with humanist governance. This requires securing individuals’ silent freedoms as embedded in the way “developmental” institutions that constitute social relations and well-being are governed. I argue health and well-being inequalities brought out by the crisis are but a manifestation of the way, in the context of the competition paradigm in global governance, states have become relatedly more punitive and dis-embedded from society. The answer lies in providing a more explicit defence of the features of a human development democratic state. An implication is to move democratic theory beyond the concern with redistributive and participatory features of democracy to consider foundational institutional properties of democratic deepening and freedom in society.