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Who Governs in Deep Crises?

The Case of Germany

Wolfgang Merkel

The Berlin Republic of today is neither Weimar (1918–1932) nor Bonn (1949–1990). It is by all standards the best democracy ever on German soil. Nevertheless, during the COVID-19 crisis there was a shift from democracy as a mode of governance to what the controversial legal theorist Carl Schmitt (1922) affirmingly described as a “state of exception”; a state that is desired and approved by the people (through opinion polls). It was the hour of the executive. The parliament disempowered itself. There was very little, if any, contestation or deliberation during the first eight weeks of the COVID-19 crisis. This article reflects on the implications of this mode of governance on institutions and actors of democracy in Germany, and offers a way of assessing the wellbeing of democracies in times of deep crisis.

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Against Analogy

Why Analogical Arguments in Support of Workplace Democracy Must Necessarily Fail

Roberto Frega

Abstract

This article asks whether the analogy between state and firm is a promising strategy for promoting workplace democracy and provides a negative answer, explaining why analogical arguments are not a good strategy for justifying workplace democracy. The article contends that the state-firm analogy is misguided for at least three reasons: (1) it is structurally inconclusive, (2) it is based on a category mistake, and (3) it leads us away from the central question we should ask, which is: What would concretely imply, and what is required, in order to democratize the workplace? I begin by offering an interpretation of the state-firm analogy which shows that use of the analogical argument in Dahl's justification of workplace democracy engenders excessive and unnecessary theoretical costs which bear negatively on his conclusion. I then proceed to examine more recent contributions to the debate and show that supporters and critics of the state-firm analogy alike do not advance our understanding of the analogical argument. In the last part of the article I provide a general theoretical explanation of why arguments based on the state-firm analogy are not good candidates for defending workplace democracy.

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Christian Ewert

Joseph Lacey, Centripetal Democracy: Democratic Legitimacy and Political Identity in Belgium, Switzerland, and the European Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 312 pp., ISBN: 9780198796886

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Book Reviews

On 20th Century Revolutionary Socialism, from Poland to Peru and beyond

Jean-Numa Ducange, Camila Vergara, Talat Ahmed, and Christian Høgsbjerg

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Alexander Weiss

Abstract

This article sketches a theoretical framework and research agenda for what is labeled as “Comparative Democratic Theory.” It is introduced as an approach to democratic theory which is informed by conceptual and methodological debates from “Comparative Political Theory” (CPT) as well as from insights from a global history of democratic thought. The inclusion of CPT perspectives into democratic theory is motivated by what is diagnosed as a conceptual blindness in Western democratic theory. When following this approach, however, the two extremes of unjustified universalism and normatively problematic relativism both must be avoided. To do so, a mode of sound abstraction is proposed, using the term “constellation,” and a discussion of aims and benefits of Comparative Democratic Theory is presented.

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Decolonising Borders

Re-imagining Strangeness and Spaces

John Sodiq Sanni

Abstract

This paper seeks to address the problem of strangeness within the context of migration in Africa. I draw on historical realities that inform existing international and African discourses on migration. I hope to show that most African countries have unconsciously bought into international arguments that drive the legitimacy of building walls, visible and invisible, and the promotion of stringent migration policies that minimise the influx of African immigrants. I draw on political and philosophical positions of African thinkers like Kwame Nkrumah, among others, in my theorisation of strangeness and the need to dispel the potential negative conception of strangeness within Africa's migration policies. I juxtapose these positions with Western political theories with the hope of emphasizing African humanism as a key conception worth considering when decolonising borders.

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Jean-Paul Gagnon

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Samuel Moyn and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Interview in Brief

Samuel Moyn provides insight into how the history of democracy can continue its globalization. There is a growing belief that the currently acceptable fund of ideas has not served the recent past well which is why an expansion, a planetary one, of democracy's ideas is necessary – especially now as we move deeper into the shadow of declining American/Western imperialism and ideology. Deciding which of democracy's intellectual traditions to privilege is driven by a mix of forced necessity and choice: finding salient ground for democracy is likely only possible in poisoned traditions including European ones.

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Francesco Maria Scanni and Francesco Compolongo

Abstract

The 2008 crisis and economic transformations (globalisation and financialisation) fuelled significant political phenomena, such as a deep distrust of politics, electoral volatility and the decline of bipolarity and/or bipartisanship in the face of growing outsider party affirmation. In this context, the dialectical model of the Gramscian ‘social totality’ provides an analytical tool capable of analysing those ‘transition’ phases characterised by a fracturing ‘dominant historical bloc’, in itself a precursor to an organic crisis of traditional political parties’ separation of social classes.

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The Limits of Liberal Democracy

Prospects for Democratizing Democracy

Viviana Asara

Abstract

This critical commentary discusses Stephan Lessenich's recent work on democracy. It argues that—to understand the structural boundaries of welfare capitalist democracy—we must critically unearth the limits of liberal democracy. This article first maintains that the absence of an economic democratization dimension is an outcome of liberal democracy's shrinking of the meaning of the political. It next claims that defining democracy in terms of rights does not duly consider how these unfolded historically and recently, nor clarifies their relation with negative freedom. The article then contends that the environmentally destructive dialectic of democracy and the belittlement of reproductive work stem from the constitution of a narrowly defined economic sphere, from which “reproductive activities” are excluded. Finally, the text reflects on what “democratizing democracy” should entail.