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Jaap Westbroek, Harry Nijhuis, and Laurent van der Maesen

Abstract

This article seeks to open a dialogue between physics, other natural sciences, and the human sciences. Part 1 questions time reversibility as a fundament of physics. This runs counter to the discourses of all other sciences, which do presume the irreversibility of time and the evolution of phenomena. Characteristics of evolution (time irreversibility, chance, evolvement of higher levels of organization) are explained according to the laws of thermodynamics. Evolutionary thermodynamics (ET) is launched as a new connecting concept. Part 2 explores interpretation of the human sciences in analogy with ET. Dialectical interaction between levels of organizational complexity is seen as a driving force in the evolution of nature, humans, and societies. The theory of social quality and the social quality approach (SQA) imply ontological (and epistemological) features with close affinity to elements of ET. Therefore, the SQA carries potentialities to stimulate border-crossing dialogue between the sciences.

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From “De Facto King” to Peasants’ Communes

A Struggle for Representation in the Discourse of the Polish Great Emigration, 1832–1846/48

Piotr Kuligowski

Abstract

This article presents a conceptual history of representation in the political debates of the Polish émigré community in the period 1832–1846/48. As I argue, while the concept was present in the output of all political environments of the Polish Great Emigration, there were more discrepancies than similarities about how to understand it. As a result of debates about what the Polish diaspora in exile actually was and who had the right to represent it, the concept became a part and parcel of political frays. In this way, the right to use it—and consequently to represent the whole Polish community and Polish nation as well—occupied a central place in the evolution of the concept of representation.

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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.

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The Modernity of Political Representation

Its Innovative Thrust and Transnational Semantic Transfers during the Sattelzeit (Eighteenth to Nineteenth Centuries)

Samuel Hayat and José María Rosales

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Neoliberalism, Hedonism and the Dying Public

Reclaiming Political Agency through the Exercise of Courage

Grant M. Sharratt and Erik Wisniewski

Abstract

While the pursuit of hedonism is legitimated by neoliberal governmentality, its disciplining and isolating forces prevent individuals from being fulfilled by their pursuit of pleasure. Concomitantly, this hedonism (pursuing pleasure to avoid pain) causes individuals to withdraw from public political life. In this article we argue that, instead of attempting to pursue pleasure through the experience of material comfort, individuals ought to orient themselves towards membership in substantive political associations. Further, we argue that it is through such membership that one can attain genuine fulfilment, while simultaneously reclaiming agency, both on individual and collective terms. Though individuals must be willing to take on the risk of pain, their membership in substantive political associations provides genuine fulfilment, while also allowing for the construction of new worlds through political action.

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Neoliberalism, the Left and the Rise of the Far Right

On the Political and Ideological Implications of Capitalism's Subordination of Democracy

Costas Panayotakis

Abstract

After analyzing the tension between capitalism and liberal democracy, this article explores two ways that the political left has tried to navigate this tension. Both these strategies prevent parties of the left and the center-left from exposing capitalism's undemocratic implications, while also helping to discredit political democracy. Unable to unify working people and ordinary citizens against the suffering that capitalism inflicts on them, the left inadvertently makes it possible for the far right to channel people's discontent in ways that attack liberal democracy and turn working people against each other. Last but not least, the discrediting of democracy that results from these processes gives rise to a vicious cycle by also encouraging the adoption of neoliberal policies, which further intensify the subordination of democratically elected governments to capitalist interests.

Open access

Pathways to Empowerment

The Social Quality Approach as a Foundation for Person-Centered Interventions

Judith R. L. M. Wolf and Irene E. Jonker

Abstract

A program for person-centered intervention—Pathways to Empowerment (PTE)—is indebted to the social quality approach (SQA), which has been developed as its scientific foundation. It provides comprehensive insight into all sorts of factors that have an impact on the quality of the daily lives of persons who have lost control in their lives. In this article, we describe what puzzles were encountered in this developmental process, specifically with regard to the constitutional factors of social quality, which are strongly linked to biographical development and personal agency and thus are the focal points of person-centered care. This part of the SQA seems less developed and researched. We describe how we have further developed the conceptualization of the constitutional factors and their dialectical relationships with the conditional factors into a practical structure for PTE. We make a case for the further development of the constitutional factors of the theory, specifically the concept of personal agency. A plea is made for reviewing the definition of social quality.

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Populism

The Timeline of a Concept

Juan Francisco Fuentes

Abstract

The concept of populism has generated endless controversy marked by both the contrasting political feelings it conveys and a particular problem of definition. This article—based on political speeches, academic literature, and relevant online sources, such as Google Ngram Viewer, catalogs of great libraries, and digital archives of newspapers—adopts a pragmatic approach to the concept throughout its history, from the moment when the noun appeared in North American political life in the late nineteenth century until the most recent “populist moment” in response to the economic crisis that started in 2008. The study of its changing meanings shows, however, some elements of continuity that make sense of what Margaret Canovan defined as “a notoriously vague term.”