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Jeffrey D. Hilmer and Max Halupka

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Wolfgang Merkel and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Editors’ introduction to the interview

Democracy, says Wolfgang Merkel, is not in as deep of an acute crisis as many today think it to be. An examination, for example, of OECD democracies over the last 50 years does not reveal democracy’s wholesale crisis but rather crises in certain sectors of democracy – ones that change over time as the state institutions affected by crises adapt to them and in some manner resolve them. Take, for instance, the improvements made in Western democracies to civil liberties, women in business and parliaments, gay rights, and the protection of minorities. These improvements happened in the last 50 years. Almost simultaneously, however, almost all established democracies developed a crisis with globalized capital that blackmails its governments with the threat of capital flight and a crisis with economic inequality which has resulted in approximately the poorest 1/3rd of most democratic societies dropping-out of each form of political participation. Merkel’s reconsideration of the crisis of democracy reveals that democracies can decline and improve at the same time because crises are sectoral.

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Free from State Violence or Free to Comply?

A Revised Typology of Coercion and Repression in Liberal Democracies

Barbora Capinska

Abstract

This article addresses the problem of unclear usage of “coercion” and “repression” in literature concerning protest and repression in democratic and nondemocratic states. It questions the bases and conclusions of domestic democratic peace theory and discusses its consequences. The article proposes expanding definitions of coercion and repression in terms of timing, agency, and perceptiveness. Using vocabulary of poststructuralist discourse theory and the “logics” approach to analyzing social phenomena, it introduces the notion of hegemonic coercion and repression and describes their functioning. It argues that contemporary liberal democracies are not free from coercion and repression, but that the hegemony embodied in the state is able to sustain itself by means of hegemonic coercion with little use of direct violence. Consequently, the absence of state violence is not a criterion of a mature democracy, but can also be a characteristic of a totalitarian regime where ideological deviations are strictly and preemptively controlled.

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From Schmitt to Foucault

Inquiring the Relationship between Exception and Democracy

Sara Raimondi

Abstract

This article examines the debated relationship between liberal-democratic politics and states of exception in conditions of emergency. After Walter Benjamin and Giorgio Agamben, it is often maintained that today we live in a situation of perennial exceptionalism, where emergency measures have become a regular practice even by governments we name ‘democratic’. In these circumstances, exception is deemed to threaten democracy and hinder individual and collective political agency. Yet, such interpretation remains rigidly focused on the expanded governmental powers ushered by the exception. The article first unpacks how the relationship between exception and democracy has been differently addressed by juridical and biopolitical approaches. Then, it attempts an alternative heuristic: it discusses possibilities of democratic associative practices in emergency by looking at the notion of resistance that Michel Foucault links with power. This route remains unexplored in the literature on the concept of the exception.

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Lest We Forget (Matter)

Posthumanism, Memory, and Exclusion

Matthew Howard

Abstract

Anzac Day commemoration centers on the Anzac Legend, that volunteer Australian soldiers gave a sense of Australian nationhood a global presence. As such, it is considered an important institution in Australia. Largely absent, or at least uncomfortably present for some Australians, are the voices of aboriginal Australians. This exclusion needs to be fully understood if the Australian polity is to be considered an unrestrictive and representative democracy. This article considers a manner in which the un-covering of the means of exclusion of aboriginal voices from Anzac Day can be achieved. This depends on a radical democratization of research. The article discusses Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and new materialism as methodological perspectives that fulfill this imperative. The article urges a democratic research process that considers how many disparate entities participate in a commemorative network in order to contribute to broader questions of exclusion, citizenship, identity, and recognition.

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Jean-Paul Gagnon and George Vasilev

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Nadia Urbinati

Abstract

This article addresses a question that sits at the heart of democracy studies today: What do we mean when we speak about a “crisis of democracy”? The article opens with introductory clarifications on the meanings of the concept of crisis—namely its root in medicine, and on three contemporary perspectives of democracy—trilateral, deliberative, and crisis. These perspectives are analyzed using monoarchic and diarchic distinctions. Next, the article lists the main discourses about crisis in recent political theory literature. In conclusion, the article proposes an answer to the question of what we mean by crisis of democracy by arguing that it is not democracy in general but one form of democracy in particular that is in crisis—a parliamentary democracy based on the centrality of suffrage and political parties.

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Timothy Marjoribanks, Ricardo Febrino Mendonça, Wilson Gomes, Henrik Paul Bang, and John Keane

John Keane, Democracy and Media Decadence (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 261 pp. ISBN: 9781107614574

A Framework for Analysing a New Form of Democracy Timothy Marjoribanks

Democracy in Times of Media Abundance Ricardo Fabrino Mendonça and Wilson Gomes

John Keane: Communicative Abundance and Hybrid Politics Henrik Paul Bang

The Communications Revolution of Our Time: Author's Reply to Comments on Democracy and Media Decadence John Keane

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Democracy and Vietnam

Visceral Perspectives

Kim Huynh

This commentary considers proceedings from the workshop, “Can the Case be Made for Asian Democratic Theory or Practice?: Local Asian Perspectives,” held in Hanoi in February 2015. Particular attention is paid to the presentations of the two presiding professors, Pham Quang Minh and John Keane, both of whom argued that the Asian democracies of the twenty-first century would and should depart from the Western liberal democratic models of the late twentieth century. They also assuaged some of the visceral sentiments and tensions between the author (a boatperson who fled the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1979) and the local workshop participants (who were avid Vietnamese socialists).

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Democracy in the Pacific Islands

Comparable Practices, Contested Meanings

Jack Corbett

Ian Shapiro identifies three traditions of democratic thought: aggregative, deliberative, and minimalist. All three are apparent in the Pacific Islands despite most commentators and donors assuming that the meaning of democracy is fixed. The focus in development studies on institutions and their capacity to deliver pro-poor growth has generated a fourth tradition that revolves around the now pervasive governance concept. Rather than focusing on the general will of a sovereign people, this perspective is predominately concerned with the legitimate use of violence as a precursor to any development-orientated democratic state. Having reviewed the literature on democracy in the Pacific to parse out these four meanings, this article concludes that paying greater attention to this ideational equivocality would extend discussions about the suitability and transferability of this type of regime.