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Dealing with an Ocean of Meaninglessness

Reinhart Koselleck's Lava Memories and Conceptual History

Margrit Pernau and Sébastien Tremblay

Abstract

During his prolific career, Reinhart Koselleck left his mark on a myriad of topics beyond the history of concepts: iconology, memory, and temporality. The first part of this piece is a never before published English translation of one of Koselleck's numerous public interventions. Second, taking as a starting point his reflection about the end of the war and the impossibility to collectivize certain memories, this article links his considerations about the unsayable with his work on images and political sensuality. Going beyond a simple analysis of Koselleck's writings, the article opens a dialogue between the history of concepts and affective memories, offering news ways to link experiences, emotions, and practices while underlining the limits of communication and collective memory.

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Democracy in a Global Emergency

Five Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Afsoun Afsahi, Emily Beausoleil, Rikki Dean, Selen A. Ercan, and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Abstract

As countries around the world went into lockdown, we turned to 32 leading scholars working on different aspects of democracy and asked them what they think about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted democracy. In this article, we synthesize the reflections of these scholars and present five key insights about the prospects and challenges of enacting democracy both during and after the pandemic: (1) COVID-19 has had corrosive effects on already endangered democratic institutions, (2) COVID-19 has revealed alternative possibilities for democratic politics in the state of emergency, (3) COVID-19 has amplified the inequalities and injustices within democracies, (4) COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for institutional infrastructure for prolonged solidarity, and (5) COVID-19 has highlighted the predominance of the nation-state and its limitations. Collectively, these insights open up important normative and practical questions about what democracy should look like in the face of an emergency and what we might expect it to achieve under such circumstances.

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The Democracy of Everyday Life in Disaster

Holding Our Lives in Their Hands

Nancy L. Rosenblum

Abstract

Neighbors inhabit a distinct social sphere whose regulative ideal is the democracy of everyday life. Its chief elements are reciprocity and a practical disregard for the differences and inequalities that shape interactions in the broader society and in democratic politics. The democracy of everyday life has heightened significance during disasters. Neighbors hold our lives in their hands. But COVID-19 differs from physical disasters in ways that alter neighbor interactions. Contamination makes relations more fearful at the same time that isolation makes them more valuable. When the meaning attributed to the virus is not shared experience of disease and mortality but rabid partisanship, neighbor relations become distorted. This degradation of the democracy of everyday life signals that democracy itself is imperiled more deeply than political paralysis, corruption, and institutional failure suggest.

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Ulrike Guérot and Michael Hunklinger

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In the past 70 years, situations that featured a lack of solidarity were always followed by the communitization of structures in the European Union. This contribution reflects on possible consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for the European Union. Even though the initial response from the EU looked unpromising and was driven at the nation-state level, the crisis may lead to new forms of solidarity through communitization. We argue that the EU needs equality for all EU citizens as well as institutionalized solidarity in order to finally become a real European democracy.

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Reinhart Koselleck, Translated By Margrit Pernau, and Sébastien Tremblay

The bells tolling on 9 May 1945 were heralding peace. The question remained: what kind of peace and for whom? Thousands of us marched on a trail for many kilometers, from Mährish-Ostrau eastward, like a silent accordion, sometimes extended, sometimes compressed, chased, not knowing where we were going. The voices of the bells echoed over our column and raised hopes from whose nonfulfillment countless people would perish, not being able to bear the disappointments of the new forthcoming peace. However, it was all unknown to us, we did not even know where we were going. Yet we knew where we were coming from, from the cauldron that had continuously tightened over four weeks, and from which we had definitely failed to escape on 1 May. With a wounded soldier on my back, I laid down my gun. At that point, we didn't know yet that the Americans would hand all the prisoners that had reached the redemptive West from Bohemia and Moravia back to the Russians. So this fight had been futile and every death in vain. The dead were still lying around in countless numbers.

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Gender, Leadership and Representative Democracy

The Differential Impacts of the Global Pandemic

Kim Rubenstein, Trish Bergin, and Pia Rowe

Abstract

That effective leadership is crucial during global emergencies is uncontested. However what that leadership looks like, and how it plays out in different contexts is less straightforward. In representative democracy, diversity is considered to be a key element for true representation of the society. In addition, previous research has unequivocally demonstrated the positive impacts of gender equality in leadership. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare some of the real world implications of gender inequalities in the leadership context. In this article, we examine the differential impacts of COVID-19 on women, and reflect on potential pathways for women's active participation.

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Maša Mrovlje and Jennet Kirkpatrick

Of late, resistance has become a central notion in political theory, standing at the heart of attempts to respond to the dilemmas of contemporary times. However, many accounts tend to ascribe to an idealised, heroic view. In this view, resistance represents a clear-cut action against injustice and stems from individuals’ conscious choice and their unwavering ethical commitment to the cause. Some liberal scholars, most notably Candice Delmas and Jason Brennan, have argued that citizens of democratic societies have a moral duty to resist state-sanctioned injustice. This resistance occurs either through ‘principled – civil or uncivil – disobedience’ or through ‘defensive actions’ (Delmas 2018: 5; Brennan 2019: 15). While acknowledging that pervasive injustice can compromise our cognitive and moral capacities, however, their articulation of our political obligation to resist refrains from a sustained examination of the moral dilemmas, uncertainties and risks that arise when fighting systemic oppression (Delmas 2018: 198–222; Brennan 2019: 28–59, 210–14).

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Tal Correm

Abstract

This article addresses the ambivalent role of violence in liberation struggles by staging a mutually enriching dialogue between Hannah Arendt and Frantz Fanon. It challenges the binary distinction between justifiable resistance that allows for only short-term, instrumental use of violence, and unwarranted resistance where violence is intrinsically justified as a creative, organic life-force of the oppressed. Instead, it discusses the constitutive role of violence as a condition of possibility of politics – highlighting the impossibility of separating the bloody moments of revolution from the constitution of the political community as a space of public freedom. The reconstructed debate on the relation between violence and freedom presents a fresh perspective on the justifiability and costs of violent resistance in circumstances of radical inequality and the extent to which liberation may remain an ongoing project to sustain the fragile achievement of freedom.

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Lauri Rapeli and Inga Saikkonen

Abstract

In this commentary, we discuss some possible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in both established and newer democracies. We expect that the pandemic will not have grave long-term effects on established democracies. We assess the future of democracy after COVID-19 in terms of immediate effects on current democratic leaders, and speculate on the long-term effects on support for democratic institutions and principles. We also discuss possible implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global trends in democratic backsliding. We predict that, in the short term, the repercussions of the pandemic can aggravate the situation in countries that are already experiencing democratic erosion. However, the long term economic effects of the pandemic may be more detrimental to non-democratic governance.

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The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Central and Eastern Europe

The Rise of Autocracy and Democratic Resilience

Petra Guasti

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a new and unparalleled stress-test for the already disrupted liberal-representative, democracies. The challenges cluster around three democratic disfigurations: technocracy, populism, and plebiscitarianism—each have the potential to contribute to democratic decay. Still, they can also trigger pushback against illiberalism mobilizing citizens in defense of democracy, toward democratic resilience. This article looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic affects democratic decay and democratic resilience in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). It finds varied responses to the COVID-19 crisis by the CEE populist leaders and identifies two patterns: the rise of autocracy and democratic resilience. First, in Hungary and Poland, the populist leaders instrumentalized the state of emergency to increase executive aggrandizement. Second, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, democracy proved resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic alone is not fostering the rise of authoritarianism. However, it does accentuate existing democratic disfigurations.