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Creating the People as ‘One’?

On Democracy and Its Other

Marta Nunes da Costa

Abstract

It is common sense today to say that ‘democracy is in crisis’. This apparently obvious crisis of democracy has several aspects: it is a crisis of its representative dimensions; it is a crisis that exposes the tensions and intrinsic contradictions between the political and the economic and financial orders; but it is also a crisis that begins to question the actual future of democracy, announcing the possibility that democracy may be replaced by something else for which we don’t have a name yet. In this article I start by looking at the modern (re) invention of democracy, trying to grasp the ways in which ‘the people’ has been theorised. After, I look at the challenges Europe is facing today, mainly in what concerns the economic and financial crises on the one hand, and the refugees and humanitarian crises on the other. I conclude by showing how and why democracy can only be defined as ‘crisis’ and why ‘the people’ must remain simultaneously invisible and un-bodied, in order to fight current populist threats.

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Bertjan Wolthuis

Abstract

Recently several political theorists have argued that mainstream political theory, exemplified by John Rawls’ political liberalism, is based on such idealist and moralist presuppositions, that it cannot be relevant for real politics. This article aims to show that the criticism of these ‘realists’, as these critics are referred to, is based on an incorrect reading of Rawls’ work. The article explains that there are three ways in which his political liberalism can be said to offer a realist understanding of politics: (a) political liberalism interprets the morality inherent in engaging in politics; (b) it acknowledges reasonable disagreement about justice; and (c) it develops standards of public reason, with which to assess the legitimacy of political compromises. The article recovers the realism of political liberalism and indicates new sites of discussion between political liberals and political realists.

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Revisiting the Menkiti-Gyekye Debate

Who Is a Radical Communitarian?

Motsamai Molefe

Abstract

In this article, I intervene in the debate about the nature of Afrocommunitarianism between Ifeanyi Menkiti and Kwame Gyekye. I contend that Menkiti’s talk of ‘personhood’ entails a perfectionist moral theory to the effect that one ought to lead a morally excellent life in a context of ‘being-with-others’. Secondly, I deny that Menkiti’s political theory rejects rights per se; rather, I submit, a more charitable reading would recognise that he takes an agnostic stance towards them and that he conceives of an African political theory as one that is duty-based (and if it considers rights at all, these are secondary to duties). I also highlight that Menkiti’s contribution poses a challenge to African philosophers to justify their ontological commitment to rights. I conclude by drawing our attention to the fact that Gyekye’s in his latter political philosophy writings endorses Menkiti’s duty-based political theory, that rights take secondary consideration to duties.

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Marcelo Hoffman

Abstract

New protest movements have recently occasioned debates about the party form on the left. Jodi Dean contributes to these debates through her theorisation of the party as an organisation for making the egalitarian impulses of the crowd durable. In this endeavour, Dean acknowledges anxiety about the party form on the left, yet she dilutes its complexity through recourse to generalities and abstractions. This article seeks to reclaim the complexity of anxiety about the party form on the left through the reflections of three major thinkers in radical political theory: Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault and Alain Badiou. These thinkers suggest that anxiety about the party can spring from highly variegated sources and lend itself to equally variegated positions. These sources and positions capture the complexity of sources of anxiety about the party on the left. They also enable us to take stock of the forms of the betrayal of radical politics by the party.

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Coulthard, Glen Sean. Red Skin, White Masks

Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition

Elaine Coburn

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Teppo Eskelinen

Abstract

This article focuses in the allocation of financial risks from the viewpoint of social justice. In contemporary society, finance and the related risk allocation patterns have become highly important in determining the social positions of individuals. Yet it is somewhat unclear how ‘financial risks’ should be understood in normative theory and to what extent their allocation is a specific problem of justice. This article consists of a definition of this category and a typology of three different and distinctive perspectives to financial risks and social justice, out of which a synthesis is drawn. The contribution of the article is to propose a normative basis for a research programme on risks and justice in the society of high financialisation.

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Ajume H. Wingo

Abstract

Conceiving of the problems of African colonialism in geopolitical terms offers an incomplete and ultimately misleading view of the significance of the African colonial experience on the present character of African politics. Unhappily, the track record of much of ‘independent’ Africa suggests that the colonisation of Africa was not so much the cause of Africans’ lack of freedom as a manifestation of the lack of freedom, without which Africans were unable to defend themselves. Colonialism is a force that probes for a certain type of weakness or limitations in a population. Colonialism seeks out certain ‘freedom voids’ – populations that lack the qualities of a free citizenry. I argue that Africans would do better to focus instead on the more general political problem of how any state, regardless of its experience with colonialism, must create and sustain the institutions that support the security and freedom of its citizens.

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Moral Conflict

The Private, the Public and the Political

Marios Filis

Abstract

This article investigates the connection between the phenomenon of moral conflict and the concepts of the private, the public and the political. In the first part of the article, as a way of locating my pluralistic position within the tradition of authors such as Isaiah Berlin and Steven Lukes, I develop a brief overview of modern meta-ethics and argue that monistic and relativistic explanations of morality are the cause of many of the antinomies that trouble human conduct. In the second part of the article, I make the central contention that moral pluralism is particularly useful in clarifying the concepts of the private, the public and the political as distinct domains of activity. I argue that we should treat moral conflict differently in each of these three domains and conclude that the moral significance and peculiarity of politics has been undeservedly underestimated in contemporary times.

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Leslie Paul Thiele and Marshall Young

Abstract

Practical judgment can be developed from a wide variety of life experiences upon one condition: the experiences in question are made meaningful through stories. By placing lived experience in narrative form one gains a flexible guide for action. Calculative analysis may usefully supplement, but cannot supplant, narrative knowledge for the decision-maker grappling with the ‘wicked problems’ of social and political life. There is no obvious, or perhaps even feasible, way to determine what constitutes the kind of story that will improve practical judgment and allow for better decisions. It is less the content of stories that requires attention than the process of narrative inquiry, interaction and understanding.

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Dmitry Shlapentokh