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)
A Proposal for Analytical Categories in the Study of Human Thought
The article argues that all disciplines examining human thought could use certain shared analytical categories. This would not mean eradicating all differences between various approaches such as intellectual history and discourse analysis, but acknowledging that they are examining partly the same basic entities. The article argues that ideational entities in human thought could be understood as concepts, beliefs, and their constellations. The article discusses the views of scholars who have theorized similar categories and shows how these can be studied through historical language use. Shared analytical categories would enhance interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars of human thought and allow more rigorous debates on issues that truly divide different disciplines, such as the explanatory values of human agency and structures.
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.
Innovation is a key concept of modernity. It acquired its lettres de noblesse in the twentieth century, thanks to or because of economics and technology. However, for centuries the concept was essentially pejorative. How can we explain this connotation? This article suggests that one of the crucial moments is the Reformation. Using official documents of the time, the article studies the vocabulary of the English Reformation and documents the meanings and the uses made of innovation. The article suggests that innovation served two functions or purposes: an injunction (not to innovate) and an accusation of non-conformity. Thereafter, innovation became a linguistic tool of polemic.
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.
Latin American Contributions to Feminist Conceptual History
Feminisms in the second half of the twentieth century were reshaped by the efforts to end violence against women. Feminist activists in national and international settings invented concepts to refer to previously unquestioned societal practices as oppressive to women and changed the world by naming them. In this article, I engage with the concepts of femicide/feminicidio (f/f): the murder of women for gender reasons. I follow the history of this concept and its incursion into the broader political and public sphere in Latin America. Focusing on the Mexican case, I show how the study of national feminist histories is relevant to the history of women’s activism in the international arena. This article contributes to the history of concepts by showing the linguistic distinctions and connections of feminist concepts in different sociocultural environments. Overall, this research argues in favor of studying feminist concepts with Latin American perspectives to articulate the complexity of the world today.
Naming the Current Politics of Hungary
Heino Nyyssönen and Jussi Metsälä
This article examines the problematic phenomenon of political naming through conceptual history. It is evident that illiberal is an ambiguous term and determining what it means is challenging, not to mention the political aspects of the name itself. We claim that naming is a political act par excellence and test our hypothesis by examining Viktor Orbán’s Băile Tuşnad speeches between 2014 and 2019 and the annual State of the Nation speeches between 2015 and 2020. We claim that even Orbán has difficulties in naming his political system. Moreover, we link naming to discussions concerning democracy. In Hungary, this “illiberal” position enables a ruling party to act in accordance with a purely majoritarian form of democracy, that is, to implement legislation with very little regard to the opposition, and by concentrating power to the party and especially to its leader.