The first contribution of this article is a politico-philosophical map that, drawing upon two common sets of arguments against modern natural rights, might help to explain the prevailing neo-republican position on natural rights. Under the label ‘abstraction argument’, we explore the view that natural rights are a metaphysical construct that usually ends in a violent application of speculative principles to society. Under ‘self-interest argument’, we discuss the notion that natural rights endorse an atomistic and selfish conception of the human being. Second, we show how Cold War authors replicated these two arguments, conveying a biased, largely anti-republican and anti-democratic view of natural rights to the twentieth century. Third, drawing on these two arguments, we critically assess the narrow view of natural rights inherited by neo-republican scholars.
Why Neo-republicanism Disregards Natural Rights
David Guerrero and Julio Martínez-Cava Aguilar
Pluralizing the Debate
Normative democratic theory with a focus on civic engagement is increasingly interested in how participatory instances connect into democratic systems (Dean, Rinne, et al. 2019; Elstub et al. 2018). The deliberative perspective has pioneered this debate and proposes a systemic view that observes how everyday talk and media discourses connect deliberative forums including parliaments, mini-publics, and protest formations (Mansbridge 1999; Mansbridge et al. 2012). While various approaches within the deliberative systems debate can be differentiated (Owen and Smith 2015), they commonly understand deliberative qualities as distributed within a broader system and focus on scaling up democratic deliberation through the transmission from the public to state institutions (Chambers 2012; Dryzek 2009).
Dominik Austrup, Marion Repetti, Andreas Avgousti, Th. W. Bottelier, and Antonin Lacelle-Webster
William A. Galston, Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018)
Gergana Dimova, Democracy Beyond Elections: Government Accountability in the Media Age (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)
David Stasavage, The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020)
G. John Ikenberry, A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020)
Cristina Lafont, Democracy without Shortcuts: A Participatory Conception of Deliberative Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020)
Juan M. del Nido
Wendy Brown’s (2015) warning that neoliberalism is a threat to democracy has for decades had a particularly literal resonance in Latin America. Neoliberalism here has become a byword for government-endorsed dispossession, extractivism, and environmental destruction (Hetherington 2020; Riofrancos 2020); the dismantling of the state (Shever 2012); and the physical violence and economic decimation of dictatorial rule (Han 2012; Whyte 2019: 156–197; Winn 2004). Academic discourse in and about Latin America tends to reduce neoliberalism to Marx’s famous description of capitalism’s icy waters and “cold and restricted . . . calculation” (Gago 2017: 10) promoted or acquiesced to by complicit, naive, corrupt, or powerless peripheral governments and a lumpenbourgeois elite. That foreign intervention in the continent in the name of democracy or its values often directly funded human rights violations only tightens the associations between neoliberalism, lack of democracy, and top-down projects.
Jean-Paul Gagnon and Emily Beausoleil
This seventeenth issue of Democratic Theory marks a major shift for the journal: this will be its last general issue until further notice. We have received many excellent special issue proposals and have also developed various special issues internally in order to speak to unfolding events and current scholarly developments. Given the journal has two issues per year, this has meant Democratic Theory no longer has space in the years to come for unsolicited, single-article submissions. We are excited about the direction this takes us, opening as it does far more opportunity for concerted dialogue and collective inquiry on timely themes, particularly given platforms for special issues can be rare in the discipline. We welcome future proposals for special issues and look forward to those already in development contributing to the broader conversations in contemporary democratic theory.
Feminist Dialogues and Republican Debates on Democracy
Ailynn Torres Santana
This article starts from the analytical disconnection between feminisms and republicanism and investigates the potential of an academic and political conversation between them. The text takes up some of the intersections between feminism and republicanism over the past few decades and draws attention to the greater interest that has been verified recently. Furthermore, the article proposes spaces where potential conversation between feminism and republicanism can take place: examining the relationship between material dispossession, dependence, and freedom; across the public, private, and domestic spheres; and the implications of extending autonomy to consider bodily autonomy. It ends with a brief reference to political participation as a feminist and republican virtue. Finally, the article stresses the need to produce a republican feminist revival.
Antonio Gramsci, the European Council Movements and the ‘Second Republican Revival’
Andreas Møller Mulvad and Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen
This article engages with socialist republicanism, which is preoccupied with extending freedom as non-domination, central to the neo-republican revival, from the political sphere of formal democracy to the economic sphere of capitalist production. Firstly, we discuss the transition from neo-republicanism to socialist republicanism. Secondly, we reconstruct the socialist republicanism of Antonio Gramsci, who was involved in the council movements in Turin in 1919–20. We argue that Gramsci applies the republican vocabulary of servitude to describe the capitalist workplace and analyse the workers’ councils as republican forms, allowing for popular self-determination in the economic sphere. Consequently, we contribute to the ongoing exploration of the historical, political, and conceptual affinities between republicanism and socialism and inscribe Gramsci as a key thinker in this endeavour.
M. Victoria Costa
This article considers why the influential neo-republicans Philip Pettit and Richard Bellamy tend to minimise or deny the role that natural or moral rights play in republican thought. It argues that their specific views about the theoretical role of such rights are motivated by methodological commitments. In Pettit’s case the commitments are to consequentialism and formalism, while in Bellamy’s it is to proceduralism. But these commitments get in the way of providing a fully adequate account of the value of freedom as non-domination: one that allows us to determine when citizens actually enjoy this kind of freedom. Finally, the article argues that a full explanation of what it means to enjoy freedom as non-domination must unavoidably appeal to normative notions.
Republican and Socialist Blueprints
Bru Laín and Edgar Manjarín
The conception of property is usually moulded upon diverting historical and political-philosophical frameworks. The current interest on the commons illustrates these divergences when they come up between a ‘pure’ public and a ‘pure’ private form of ownership. This conceptual triad misleads by conflating private property with an absolute property right while equating public property with a centralised political regime. This article traces the republican conception of property in order to show how it draws a legal and philosophical continuum around different forms of ownership, based on a fiduciary principle underlying the relationship between the sovereign or principal (trustor) and its agent (trustee). Despite modern socialism apparently left aside the question of the commons, the republican-fiduciary rationale was reformulated according to the modern industrial capitalist society.
What Role for Unconditional Basic Income?
David Casassas and Jordi Mundó
During the last two centuries, property understood as an exclusive and unlimited dominion became common sense. Before, the idea of property as a fiduciary relationship, which is still present in contemporary social constitutionalism, was closely linked to the view that the exercise of freedom entails the capacity to shape those property rights that channel socioeconomic life. Today, new ways to operationalise such an approach must be found. This article explores the scope of ‘direct strategies’ (the state as proprietor, democratically limited forms of private property, and common property) and ‘indirect strategies’ (the distribution of ‘social power’ through the introduction of unconditional public policy schemes such as basic income) in the recovery of the idea and the practice of collective fiduciary control over the economic realm.