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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.

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Porscha Fermanis

Viewing Brexit as part of a longer history of Anglo-Saxon racial and cultural exceptionalism, this article reflects on what Samuel Butler’s satirical novel Erewhon, or Over the Range (1872) can tell us about the utopian impulses informing Brexit’s neoimperialist ideology and hence about British identity politics today. Set in an inward-looking, socially homogeneous, and postindustrial society somewhere in the colonial southern hemisphere, Erewhon provides an anachronistic simulacrum of both an isolationist “Little England” and an imperial “Global Britain,” critiquing the idea of the self-sufficient, ethnonationalist “island nation” by demonstrating the extent to which it relies on the racial logic of White utopianism, as well as on a disavowal of the non-British labor that supports and sustains it.

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Coda — Pandemic Brexit

Cancelling the Political Future

Bill Schwarz

Taking off from a 1940 speech by Winston Churchill, I explore the shifting sensibilities underwriting the twin impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that a component of the current period turns on a disabling incapacity to think about a determinate political future.

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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.

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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.

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Dane Kennedy

This article examines the enduring influence of Charles Dilke’s Greater Britain (1868), which persists today in the ambitions of Brexit’s proponents. Dilke characterized Britain as the center of a world system bound together by a common identity. Yet his explanation of that identity was riddled with inconsistencies. While he cast it mainly in racial terms, he also proposed cultural and linguistic criteria. These inconsistencies would complicate the efforts to define and delineate the reach of Greater Britain by those who followed in Dilke’s footsteps. This includes the leading Brexiteers who have advanced Greater Britain’s modern iteration, the Anglosphere, as an alternative to EU membership.

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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.

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Introduction

When Was Brexit? Reading Backward to the Present

Antoinette Burton

This introductory article lays out the stakes of thinking through the temporalities of Brexit history across multiple fields of vision. It makes the case for books as one archive of Brexit subjects and feelings, and it glosses all the articles in the special issue.

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Stuart Ward

J. G. A. Pocock’s magnum opus, The Machiavellian Moment, seems an unlikely contender as an intimation of Brexit. Published in 1975, his study of the revival of classical Republicanism in Renaissance Italy and the struggle to uphold a universal ideal of active citizenship could not be further removed from Britain’s departure from the European Union forty-five years later. But the wider production context suggests that it might be worth probing the possible connections. This article examines Pocock’s protracted reckoning with Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community in the early 1970s amid the ruptures of empire’s end. It seeks to tease out the existential underpinnings not only of the latter-day exigencies of leaving but also of the persistent habit of harnessing that ambition to a reimagining of Britain’s global coordinates.

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Must Labour Lose?

The 1959 election and the politics of the people

Charlotte Lydia Riley

This article explores Mark Abrams, Richard Rose, and Rita Hinden’s 1960 publication Must Labour Lose? in order to demonstrate that contemporary debates around British identity and political culture are nothing new. The concerns about political, party, and national identity in this book clearly prefigure 2016 debates about Britain, not least because a specific question—how to vote—became a conversation about a broader set of ideals. This article explores how Must Labour Lose? constructed an image of British politics in 1959. It interrogates its silences around racial identity and argues that we must read race into this book and others like it. And it concludes that research like this enables a much wider understanding of the British electorate than simply how they voted.