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Mark Chou and Jean-Paul Gagnon

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The End of Representative Politics, Revisited

Simon Tormey and Jean-Paul Gagnon


In reinterrogating core concepts from his 2015 book, The End of Representative Politics, Simon Tormey explains the nature of emergent, evanescent, and contrarian forms of political practice. He sheds light on what is driving the political disruption transpiring now through a series of engaging comments from the field on well-known initiatives like Occupy, #15M, and Zapatistas and also lesser-known experiments such as the creation of new political parties like Castelló en Moviment, among others. Postrepresentative representation, it is argued, is not an oxymoron; it, like the term antipolitical politics, is rather a provocative concept designed to capture the radically new swarming politics underway in countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Iceland. Citizens are tooling up with ICTs, and this has led to resonant political movements like #15M in Spain or Occupy more broadly. Key takeaways from this interview include the double-edged nature of representation and the fact that new forms of political representation are breaking the mould.

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Facts and Norms in Democratization

Roberto Farneti


The literature on democratization uses measures of either ethnic fractionalization or polarization in empirical analyses on the causes of democratic regress; some authors have argued that either of the two complicates democratization. This article detects a conceptual puzzle in this use of the two concepts: when we shift the attention from fractionalization to polarization we are not simply moving along a continuum but rather making an epistemic leap from facts to normative problems. But to treat the relation between a descriptive account of a state of affairs and a normative status as a continuum is a fallacy that remains unaddressed in this literature. This article exposes the limits of analyses that remove normative considerations from the big picture of dynamics of democratization and that narrow their focus to case histories of democratic development. It pleas for a return to normative insight and interdisciplinary dialogue.

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Organized Interests and the Prospects of a Global Democracy

Leif Lewin


Corporatism is being reinvented in current theories about global democracy. As I see it, corporatism can be regarded as a practical way out of democracy’s intensity problem: whether those more involved in an issue should have greater say. By the same token, corporatism can be perceived as a response to the all-affected principle: whether those especially affected by a decision should have more influence. In nation-states, corporatism was to a large extent dismantled during the 1980s. In world politics, by contrast, NGOs are now called upon to play an important role in not only articulating intense and affected interests but also, in so doing, realizing a global democracy. The weakness of this argument is that today’s NGOs do not reflect the will of most people—as national organizations once managed to do—and, consequently, cannot fulfill the integrative and representative function associated with this form of interest politics.

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Book Symposium

Paul Apostolidis, William E. Connolly, Jodi Dean, Jade Schiff, and Romand Coles

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Common Democracy

Political Representation beyond Representative Democracy

Alexandros Kioupkiolis


At a time when representative democracies are in deep crisis, this article examines the debate over representation as it appears in contemporary Marxist and poststructuralist political thought. The article discusses, more specifically, Ernesto Laclau’s defense of political representation and pits this against Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s vision of an “absolute democracy” beyond representation, in order to chart a path between and beyond both contrasting positions. The crux of the argument is that in participatory democracies political governance becomes a common affair: a public good accessible to all members of a community on the basis of equality. Such a democratic regime contrasts with both representative democracies, where the assembled demos is excluded from any effective participation in the everyday exercise of major political power, as well as direct democracy, where the collective sovereign would be fully present to itself, total and undivided. Common political representation is open to all, inclusive, participatory, and accountable.

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The Deliberative Potential of Facultative Referendums

Procedure and Substance in Direct Democracy

Alice el-Wakil


Deliberative democracy theorists have long dismissed direct democratic mechanisms, suspecting them of fundamentally contradicting the deliberative ideal. One reason for this dismissal is that, as aggregative devices, all direct democratic institutions would implement a purely procedural view of democracy deemed undesirable. In this article, I contest this objection to all direct democratic procedures by showing that one of them, namely, the facultative referendum, corresponds to Joshua Cohen’s definition of substantive democracy. Moreover, because it introduces uncertainty in the democratic system and replaces hypothetical with actual acceptance of reasons, the facultative referendum gives political actors strong incentives to think in terms of acceptable justifications and can screen outcomes that fit the three principles of Cohen’s deliberative ideal. These findings should encourage deliberative democracy theorists to further develop tools to inform the design and assessment of the growing number of popular votes around the world and ultimately enhance their democratic quality.

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John Dewey between Participatory Democracy and Direct Action

A Commentary on Jeff Jackson

William R. Caspary


This critical commentary engages Jeff Jackson’s reading of John Dewey’s approach to participatory democracy and direct action—both are fundamental issues in democratic theory today. I probe Dewey’s texts for what I reason to be a more precise reading of his views on social movement action. I go beyond Jackson’s assertion of a role for direct action, to theorize it as an intrinsic element of participatory democracy.

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Resist and Revivify

Democratic Theory in a Time of Defiance

Jean-Paul Gagnon and Emily Beausoleil

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SeeClickFix Empowers Citizens by Connecting Them to Their Local Governments

Ben Berkowitz and Jean-Paul Gagnon