This article compares the ideas of Amílcar Cabral and Amartya Sen on capability, freedom, resistance and political change, thereby revealing the importance of radical realism in political thought and development studies. Sen’s path-breaking work has been transformative for multiple disciplines, not least development. Yet, reading Sen alongside the ideas of one of Africa’s most successful anti-colonial political leaders is revelatory: it provides the basis for the argument that radical realism is most valuable if it is action-guiding, comparative and about context-specific change. This involves a distinction between realistic political theory and realism in political thought where only the latter demands utopian thinking. What follows from this regarding democracy, impartiality and justice? In answering this with reference to some social movements, the article then defends the political potential of conflict, partisan positions, resistance and political change directed towards overcoming domination.
Freedom, Resistance and Radical Realism
Marie Paxton and Uğur Aytaç
George Robert Bateman, Jr., The Transformative Potential of Participatory Budgeting: Creating an Ideal Democracy.
Garett Jones, 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less.
SimonMary Aihiokhai, Lorina Buhr, David Moore, and William Jethro Mpofu
Teresia Mbari Hinga, African, Christian, Feminist: The Enduring Search for What Matters. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017, 244pp.
Michael Marder, Political Categories: Thinking Beyond Concepts. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019, 255pp.
António Tomás, Amílcar Cabral: The Life of a Reluctant Nationalist. London: Hurst, 2021, 272 pp.
Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Epistemic Freedom in Africa: Deprovincialization and Decolonization. London: Routledge, 2018, 282pp.
A Critical Analysis of John Keane's The New Despotism (Harvard University Press, 2020)
In his latest opus, The New Despotism, John Keane continues to challenge existing wisdom in the field of democratic theory and comparative political studies. One of the key insights of the book is that there is nothing inherently democratic about democratic innovations and procedures, and thus they can be used to prop up despotisms, rather than usher in democracy. While this insight comports with existing misgivings about elections, the book stands out in the way it explains the sustainability of using the democratic procedures in the new despotisms. For democratic procedures to further the aims of the new despotisms, the condition of “voluntary servitude” needs to be met. “Voluntary servitude” means that people willingly give in to political slavery, and become accomplices in maintaining the illusion that democratic procedures are implemented (215–222). Keane's achievement is that he creates an analytical ecosystem of interlinked assumptions, observations, conditions, and other logical connectors, which make his model of the new despotism so robust.
Altman, David. 2018. Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dyck, Joshua, and Edward Lascher. 2019. Initiatives without Engagement: A Realistic Appraisal of Direct Democracy's Secondary Effects. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Hollander, Saskia. 2019. The Politics of Referendum Use in European Democracies. London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Matsusaka, John G. 2020. Let the People Rule: How Direct Democracy Can Meet the Populist Challenge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Emily Beausoleil and Jean-Paul Gagnon
This 16th issue of Democratic Theory features three articles, a trialogue (our first), two review essays, and two book reviews.
A Relationship of Tension
The categories of ethnicity, homogeneity and the nation partially contradict each other, but they also overlap. In order to examine this tension, this article will consider these terms in the context of the question that mediates their relationship, namely, the stability and instability of political orders. My aim is to articulate a conceptual framework that makes it possible to discuss this relationship of tension and sketch it from a theoretical perspective.
Developing Donald Davidson’s Ideas in International Political Theory
Although influential in philosophy and relevant to international political theory’s (IPT) key concerns, Donald Davidson has not received commensurate attention in IPT. I aim here to commence filling this gap. I explore Davidson’s insights which fruitfully challenge established disciplinary views. The notions of rationality, objectivity and truth, and, on the other hand, those of intersubjectivity, language and interpretation are often needlessly separated and constricted by seemingly alternative approaches. Davidson firmly reconnects these notions. He helps rethink the realist, strong post-positivist, but also liberal, ‘thin’ constructivist and critical (not thoroughly contextualist) approaches. He bridges the normative cosmopolitan–communitarian distinction. Eventually, Davidson laid foundations for a perspective foregrounding possibilities for rational communication and agreement between very different contexts and also for the non-dogmatic, pluralist and dynamic nature of communication itself.
This article argues that there is no such phenomenon as a Fourth Industrial Revolution. It derives a framework for the analysis of any industrial revolution from a careful historical account of the archetypal First Industrial Revolution. The suggested criteria for any socioeconomic transformation to be considered an industrial revolution are that it must encompass a technological revolution; a transformation of the labour process; a fundamental change in workplace relations; new forms of community and social relationships; and global socio-economic transformations. These transformations indeed characterise the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions. The aggregate of technical innovations in the latter is carefully examined, because this is a crucial part of determining whether we can meaningfully claim that a Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. The article demonstrates that we cannot.
Against Functional and Global Solutions to the Boundary Problem in Democratic Theory
The boundary problem holds that, whatever the theory of democratic legitimacy, the initial act of constituting the demos can never be considered met by it. Many contemporary attempts to solve the boundary problem can be understood as falling into two categories: functional demos views and global demos views. This article argues against both views. Functional demos views exacerbate the legitimacy puzzle posed by the boundary problem, while a global democracy cannot be held democratically accountable by its citizens. In the place of global demos and functional demos views, we ought to examine the democratic legitimacy of polities in light of the standards of pluralist democracy. Pluralist democracy is a non-ideal conception of democracy that recognizes democratic procedures to be historically grounded, non-ideal, and problem-oriented.