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Open access

Marie Paxton and Uğur Aytaç

George Robert Bateman, Jr., The Transformative Potential of Participatory Budgeting: Creating an Ideal Democracy.

Garett Jones, 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less.

Open access

Democratic Procedures Are Not Inherently Democratic

A Critical Analysis of John Keane's The New Despotism (Harvard University Press, 2020)

Gergana Dimova

In his latest opus, The New Despotism, John Keane continues to challenge existing wisdom in the field of democratic theory and comparative political studies. One of the key insights of the book is that there is nothing inherently democratic about democratic innovations and procedures, and thus they can be used to prop up despotisms, rather than usher in democracy. While this insight comports with existing misgivings about elections, the book stands out in the way it explains the sustainability of using the democratic procedures in the new despotisms. For democratic procedures to further the aims of the new despotisms, the condition of “voluntary servitude” needs to be met. “Voluntary servitude” means that people willingly give in to political slavery, and become accomplices in maintaining the illusion that democratic procedures are implemented (215–222). Keane's achievement is that he creates an analytical ecosystem of interlinked assumptions, observations, conditions, and other logical connectors, which make his model of the new despotism so robust.

Open access

Spencer McKay

Altman, David. 2018. Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dyck, Joshua, and Edward Lascher. 2019. Initiatives without Engagement: A Realistic Appraisal of Direct Democracy's Secondary Effects. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Hollander, Saskia. 2019. The Politics of Referendum Use in European Democracies. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Matsusaka, John G. 2020. Let the People Rule: How Direct Democracy Can Meet the Populist Challenge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Open access

Emily Beausoleil and Jean-Paul Gagnon

This 16th issue of Democratic Theory features three articles, a trialogue (our first), two review essays, and two book reviews.

Open access

Pluralist Democracy and Non-Ideal Democratic Legitimacy

Against Functional and Global Solutions to the Boundary Problem in Democratic Theory

Tom Theuns

Abstract

The boundary problem holds that, whatever the theory of democratic legitimacy, the initial act of constituting the demos can never be considered met by it. Many contemporary attempts to solve the boundary problem can be understood as falling into two categories: functional demos views and global demos views. This article argues against both views. Functional demos views exacerbate the legitimacy puzzle posed by the boundary problem, while a global democracy cannot be held democratically accountable by its citizens. In the place of global demos and functional demos views, we ought to examine the democratic legitimacy of polities in light of the standards of pluralist democracy. Pluralist democracy is a non-ideal conception of democracy that recognizes democratic procedures to be historically grounded, non-ideal, and problem-oriented.

Open access

Realizing Interspecies Democracy

The Preconditions for an Egalitarian, Multispecies, World

Sue Donaldson, Janneke Vink, and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Abstract

Sue Donaldson, Janneke Vink, and Jean-Paul Gagnon discuss the problem of anthropocentric democratic theory and the preconditions needed to realize a (corrective) interspecies democracy. Donaldson proposes the formal involvement of nonhuman animals in political institutions—a revolutionary task; Vink argues for changes to the law that would cover nonhuman animals with inviolable political rights; and Gagnon advises a personal change to dietary choices (veganism) and ethical orientations (do no harm). Together, the three proposals point to a future position where humans can participate in a multispecies world in which nonhuman others are freed from our tyrannical grasp.

Open access

Rethinking Modes of Political Participation

The Conventional, Unconventional, and Alternative

Marcin Kaim

Abstract

Political participation is frequently defined as either being conventional or unconventional. This distinction is based on dualistic thinking. Participation is likened to other dualisms, such as legal–illegal, collective–individual, and unity–plurality. Drawing on Niklas Luhmann's system theory, I argue that understanding political participation in terms of dualisms is reductive, as it overlooks those acts of participation that do not fit the conventional–unconventional distinction. To address this issue, the article introduces the notion of alternative political participation. This category is established by conceiving the existing dualism between conventional and unconventional political participation as a continuum of options existing between polar opposites.

Open access

Struggles over Expertise

Practices of Politicization and Depoliticization in Participatory Democracy

Taina Meriluoto

Abstract

There is growing concern among democracy scholars that participatory innovations pose a depoliticizing threat to democracy. This article tackles this concern by providing a more nuanced understanding of how politicization and depoliticization take shape in participatory initiatives. Based on ethnographic research on participatory projects with marginalized people who are invited to act as experiential experts, the article examines how actors limit and open up possibilities to participate. By focusing on struggles concerning the definition of expertise, the article identifies a threefold character of politicization as a practice within participatory innovations. It involves (1) illuminating the boundaries that define the actors’ possibilities; (2) making a connection between these boundaries and specific value bases; and (3) imagining an alternative normative basis for participation.

Open access

American Extraterritorial Legislation

The Data Gathering behind the Sanctions

Ali Laïdi

Abstract

Since the early 2000s, the United States’ different administrations of justice have been prosecuting foreign companies suspected of violating US laws on bribery of foreign public officials and of failing to respect embargoes and economic sanctions. Even if these violations take place outside US borders, the American prosecution authorities (including the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of Foreign Assets Control) consider themselves legitimate to intervene. European multinationals have been particularly sanctioned. For instance, in 2014, fines reached up to 9 billion dollars for the French bank BNP, which was accused of using dollars in its transactions with certain countries sanctioned by the US (mainly Iran, Cuba and Sudan). Punishing companies and hitting them in the wallet are not the only objectives of the American administration. The United States takes advantage of legal procedures against foreign companies to collect millions of bytes of data, sometimes including sensitive information on them as well as on their partners and markets. Facing this legal offensive, Europe is still struggling to provide responses to protect its companies.

Open access

Communication, Context, and Narrative

Habermas and Contemporary Realist Thought

Navid Hassanzadeh

Abstract

Although often cast by realists as an exemplar of moralist or rationalist thinking, Jürgen Habermas and certain commentators on his work reject this characterisation, highlighting elements of his thought that conflict with it. This article will examine dimensions of Habermas's work that relate to many realist concerns in political theory. I argue that while he escapes the commonplace caricature of an abstract thinker who is inattentive to real world affairs, Habermas's claims in relation to communication, historical and empirical context, and the development of rights in history, reveal a narrow consideration of what defines context and a progressivist narrative of history that fails to address seemingly outdated beliefs and political forces. An analysis of these issues can serve to inform understandings of these topics in realist thought and in political theory more broadly.