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Amílcar Cabral and Amartya Sen

Freedom, Resistance and Radical Realism

Lawrence Hamilton

This article compares the ideas of Amílcar Cabral and Amartya Sen on capability, freedom, resistance and political change, thereby revealing the importance of radical realism in political thought and development studies. Sen’s path-breaking work has been transformative for multiple disciplines, not least development. Yet, reading Sen alongside the ideas of one of Africa’s most successful anti-colonial political leaders is revelatory: it provides the basis for the argument that radical realism is most valuable if it is action-guiding, comparative and about context-specific change. This involves a distinction between realistic political theory and realism in political thought where only the latter demands utopian thinking. What follows from this regarding democracy, impartiality and justice? In answering this with reference to some social movements, the article then defends the political potential of conflict, partisan positions, resistance and political change directed towards overcoming domination.

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Jan Ifversen

Abstract

In March 2020, Melvin Richter, one of the founders of international, conceptual history passed away. This sad occasion makes it timely in our journal to reflect on the process that turned national projects within conceptual and intellectual history into an international and transnational enterprise. The text that follows—published in two parts, here and in the next issue—takes a closer look at the intellectual processes that led up to the founding meeting of the association behind our journal, the History of Concepts Group. It follows in the footsteps of Melvin Richter to examine the different encounters, debates and protagonists in the story of international, conceptual history. The text traces the different approaches that were brought to the fore and particularly looks at Melvin Richter's efforts to bridge between an Anglophone tradition of intellectual history and a German tradition of Begriffsgeschichte.

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

SimonMary Aihiokhai, Lorina Buhr, David Moore, and William Jethro Mpofu

Teresia Mbari Hinga, African, Christian, Feminist: The Enduring Search for What Matters. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017, 244pp.

Michael Marder, Political Categories: Thinking Beyond Concepts. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019, 255pp.

António Tomás, Amílcar Cabral: The Life of a Reluctant Nationalist. London: Hurst, 2021, 272 pp.

Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Epistemic Freedom in Africa: Deprovincialization and Decolonization. London: Routledge, 2018, 282pp.

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The Concept of Religion in Meiji Popular Discourse

An Analysis of the Newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun

Makoto Harris Takao

Abstract

This article challenges claims that the Japanese neologism shūkyō (as a translation for “religionȍ) lacked an established nature prior to the twentieth century and had little to do with experiences of the urban masses. It accordingly problematizes the term as a largely legal concept, highlighting historical newspapers as underutilized sources that offer insight into Meiji popular discourse and attendant conceptualizations of “religion.” This article endorses a shift in both our chronological understanding of shūkyō's conceptual history as well as its sociocultural mobility. By expanding the milieu understood as being familiar with debates on a range of “religious” issues, this article thereby offers a counter-narrative in which regular use of shūkyō begins to clearly emerge from the mid-1880s, exponentially increasing with the following decades.

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Conceptual Explorations around “Politics”

Thematizing the Activity of Politics in the Plenary Debates of the German Bundestag

Kari Palonen

Abstract

This article discusses the ways of conceptualizing politics in parliamentary debates. When the politics-vocabulary is ubiquitous in them, which kind of speech act lies in emphasizing the political aspect? Focusing on thematized uses allows us to identify conceptual revisions in the politics-vocabulary in digitalized plenary debates of the German Bundestag from 1949 to 2017. My fourfold scheme for conceptualizing politics (polity, policy, politicization, politicking) provides the analytical apparatus. The units of analysis in this study are compound words around politics written as single words, a German language specialty. Their frequency has remarkably risen in the Bundestag debates, and the search engine can easily find them. This research interest allows me to speculate with changes in the understanding and appreciation of politics in postwar (West)Germany

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

Ethnicity, Homogeneity, Nation

A Relationship of Tension

Samuel Salzborn

The categories of ethnicity, homogeneity and the nation partially contradict each other, but they also overlap. In order to examine this tension, this article will consider these terms in the context of the question that mediates their relationship, namely, the stability and instability of political orders. My aim is to articulate a conceptual framework that makes it possible to discuss this relationship of tension and sketch it from a theoretical perspective.