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Open access

Nathan Vandeputte

This article intervenes in the debates on reforming EU democracy support by offering a “radical reformist” approach. It departs from the observation that literature lacks a sustained theorization of reform which more effectively considers contestation as the very condition of democracy. As such, in contrast to withdrawing democracy from its contested nature, this article presents a theoretical argument, as informed by Chantal Mouffe’s take on radical democracy, through which the EU more democratically can engage with and support the plurality of different contestations of democracy. In particular, a closer engagement with the radical democratic embrace of the political will allow for better reflection on how EU democracy support already is or can become democratic, empowering and receptive to the way democracy is understood locally.

Open access

Radical Republicanism

Democracy, Property and Rights

David Guerrero, Bru Laín, and Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen

Over the last two decades republican thought has attracted a growing interest from political, moral and legal scholars. These contemporary theoretical syntheses of ‘neo-republican’ thought have been closely related to intellectual history and the idea of recovering an overshadowed tradition of political thought. In this vein, a classical set of historical moments and places (e.g., ancient Rome, renaissance Italy, civil-war England or revolutionary America among others) and specific political practices within those contexts appear to be the main source of what republicanism meant – and what it could mean today.

Open access

Republican Constitutionalism

Plebeian Institutions and Anti-Oligarchic Rules

Camila Vergara

The article presents a plebeian strand of republican constitutional thought that recognises the influence of inequality on political power, embraces conflict as the effective cause of free government, and channels its anti-oligarchic energy through the constitutional structure. First it engages with two modern plebeian thinkers – Niccolò Machiavelli and Nicolas de Condorcet - focusing on the institutional role of the common people to resist oppression through ordinary and extraordinary political action. Then it discusses the work of two contemporary republican thinkers – Philip Pettit and John McCormick – and contrasts their models of ‘contestatory’ and ‘tribunician’ democracy. Finally, I incorporate a political economy lens and propose as part of republican constitutionalism not only contestatory and tribunician institutions but also anti-oligarchic basic rules to keep inequality and corruption under control.

Open access

Benjamin Abrams

Two maladies that have been incipient in Liberal Democracy since its birth have finally struck at once. The “tyranny of the majority” and “administrative despotism”—first identified by Alexis de Tocqueville almost two centuries ago—have combined in the form of a new, much more threatening democratic mutation. We are witnessing the rise of “despotic majoritarianism,” in which citizens are simultaneously given less and less say in the political process, just as more and more is being done in their name. This new strain of democratic disease threatens not just the United States but societies across Europe, Latin America, and South Asia. This article explores the nature of despotic majoritarianism, its manifestation today, and how we might combat it.

Open access

Televised Election Debates in a Deliberative System

The Role of Framing and Emotions

Emma Turkenburg

Are televised election debates (TEDs) a blessing for democracy, educating citizens and informing them of their electoral options? Or should they be viewed as a curse, presenting superficial, manipulating rhetoric in one-way communication? In this article, I evaluate TEDs from a deliberative point of view, focusing on the potential positive and negative outcomes of framing by politicians, as well as on the pros and cons of displaying emotions in debates. I argue that the use of these two rhetorical devices in TEDs is potentially helpful in inspiring deliberation, perspective-taking and subsequent reflection in both politicians and voters. This leads me to conclude that televised election debates should be critically approached as communicative venues with potential deliberative qualities.

Open access

What Can a Political Form of Reconciliation Look Like in Divided Societies?

The Deliberative “Right to Justification” and Agonistic Democracy

Burcu Özçelik

Deliberative and agonistic democrats have conceived of political reconciliation and its pursuit in different forms. In this article, I explore how insight can be derived from key tenets of both strands of democratic theory in the struggle to achieve political reconciliation in war-torn or divided contexts. Rather than subsume disagreement or straitjacket it in processes of “rational” deliberation, I propose contingent, open-ended, but inclusive contestation to achieve political reconciliation. This article explores how the deliberative “right to justification,” set out by critical theorist Rainer Forst, can be put to work in an agonistic politics of reconciliation. I want to show that deliberation over the right to justification and the corollary duty to justify constitute conjoined means of consensus-seeking that can be contingent and fluid and can account for entrenched relations of power and inequality—two dynamics that deliberative theorists have been accused of deflecting or obscuring.

Open access

The Artistry of Critical Thought

A Conversation on Adorno, Baudrillard, Braidotti and Marcuse

Siphiwe I. Dube

This article provides an analysis of the way in which contemporary forms of intelligence discourse (Jean Baudrillard), in similar fashion to political art (Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse), function by delimiting critical thought. The intelligence discourse critiqued is extolled through things such as progressive intelligence acquisition (Flynn effect) and the supposed indispensability of Democratic reason (Hélène Landemore), amongst other qualities. In support of its argument, the article focusses specifically on Baudrillard’s analysis of the notion of the intelligence of evil, as well as on the Frankfurt School’s critique of massification. However, the article also notes limitations in these thinkers’ recovery and defence of critical thought in response to the delimitation posed by intelligence and massification, and argues for Rosi Braidotti’s evaluation of thought as nomadic as a necessary corrective.

Open access

Dawid Rogacz, Donald Mark C. Ude, and Tshepo Mvulane Moloi

Douglas L. Berger, Indian and Intercultural Philosophy: Personhood, Consciousness and Causality. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 240 pp.

Joseph C. A. Agbakoba, Development and Modernity in Africa: An Intercultural Philosophical Perspective, Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2019, 405 pp.

Adekeye Adebajo (ed.), The Pan-African Pantheon: Prophets, Poets and Philosophers, Auckland Park, South Africa: Jacana Media, 2020. 655 pp.

Open access

Gal Gerson

While aligned with John Neville Figgis’ pluralism and Marxist socialism, Harold Laski endorsed liberal and democratic values. However, he synthesised several elements from older liberal theories in a way that diluted the division to which these theories had adhered, namely that between the private and the political spheres. The resulting combination preserves privacy’s status as the realm where individuals are free to pursue their separate ends, but enables essentially private activities based in voluntary social spaces to infuse the space of politics. From this emerged a vision of liberal democracy, in which freedom plays out in multiple private spaces that do not require an autonomous civic arena to complement them. The combination was reached within the contexts of mid-century thinking about the welfare state and a broader project of reformulating democracy by reducing its equation with representation.

Open access

Machiavelli and Spartan Equality

The Image and Function of Lycurgus’ Heritage

Filippo Del Lucchese

In this article, I explore the meaning and function of Lycurgus in Machiavelli’s thought. While the exemplarity of the mythical Spartan legislator progressively fades in Machiavelli’s thought in favour of the Roman model, Lycurgus’ reforms are central in Machiavelli’s works on two issues of primary importance: wealth and land distribution. First, I analyse Machiavelli’s use of the ancient sources on both Lycurgus and other Spartan legislators to show how the former builds a selective and strategically balanced reading of the ancient sources to build an image of the latter as a pro-popular ruler and of the subsequent Spartan reformers as followers not only of the mythical legislator generally, but also of his most controversial and popularly oriented attempts to reform property ownership in ancient Sparta. Lycurgus reveals how Machiavelli, far from seeing mixed government as the best form of government, promotes a strongly anti-aristocratic model. Second, I show that in Machiavelli’s thought the Spartan question can largely be seen as a background for his reading of Roman history, particularly its most crucial, conflictual and controversial period – that in which the Gracchi brothers’ attempted to achieve agrarian reform.