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“Biggest Nationalist in the Country”

Self-Descriptive Uses of “Nationalist” in Contemporary Russia

Veera Laine

Abstract

Nationalism is an ism rarely used as self-description. This article suggests that nationalist discourses are on the move, meaning the concept may be used in novel ways. In Russia, for example, the president recently identified himself as a nationalist, claiming ownership of the concept in the long-standing struggle against manifestations of oppositional nationalism. The article asks who describes themselves as nationalists in contemporary Russia, how do they define the concept, and how did it change during the years 2008–2018 when nationalism as a political idea became increasingly important in Russian politics? Drawing from Russian newspaper sources, the article suggests that diverse, self-proclaimed nationalist actors rely on narrow ethnic understandings of the concept and do not embrace the president's interpretation of multinational nationalism.

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Conceptual History of the Near East

The Sattelzeit as a Heuristic Tool for Interrogating the Formation of a Multilayered Modernity

Florian Zemmin and Henning Sievert

Abstract

Conceptual history holds tremendous potential to address a central issue in Near Eastern Studies, namely the formation of modernity in the Near East, provisionally located between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The encounter with European powers, primarily Britain and France, was a decisive historical factor in this formation; and European hegemony is, in fact, inscribed into the very concept of “modernity,” which we take as an historical, rather than analytical, concept. The conceptual formation of modernity in Arabic and Turkish was, however, a multilayered process; involving both ruptures and continuities, intersecting various temporalities, and incorporating concepts from several languages. To interrogate this multilayered process, we suggest the metaphor of the Sattelzeit (Saddle Period) as a heuristic tool, precisely because of its being tied to modernity. Finally, the article will show what conceptual history of the Near East has to offer to conceptual history more broadly.

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Conceptualizing an Outside World

The Case of “Foreign” in Dutch Newspapers 1815–1914

Ruben Ros

Abstract

This article studies the concept of buitenland (the foreign) in a broad sample of Dutch newspapers in the period between 1815 and 1914. Buitenland emerged as a key concept in the nineteenth century. It referred to an “outside word” that was marked by semantic properties such as instability and closeness. As such, this apparently mundane spatial indicator bolstered the emergent “spatial regime” of globality and globalization. The article thus shows how a computational analysis of concepts that could be easily overlooked reveals structural transformations in the way past and present societies conceptualize (global) space.

Open access

Democracies in the Ethnosphere

An Anthropologist’s Lived Experiences of Indigenous Democratic Cultures

Wade Davis and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Anthropology meets democratic theory in this conversation that explores indigeneity, diversity, and the potentialities of democratic practices as exist in the non-Western world. Wade Davis draws readers into the ethnosphere—the sum total of human knowledge and experience—to highlight the extinction events that are wiping out some half of human ethnic diversity. Gagnon worries over what is lost to how we can understand and practice democracy in this unprecedented, globally occurring, ethnocide.

Open access

Democracy’s Conceptual Politics

Liberalism and Its Others

Christopher Hobson

The language we use for democracy matters, the struggles over how it is defined are real, the outcomes are consequential. This is what a conceptual politics approach emphasizes, pointing to the vital role played by contestation in determining which meanings prevail and which are marginalized. Among all the meanings of democracy that exist, it is liberal democracy that stands at the center, it has effectively won conceptual and political battles resulting in its current primacy. In this sense, liberalism is much more deeply baked into contemporary discussions about democracy than some might be comfortable admitting. This is not without cause, as liberal democracy has achieved, and continues to unevenly provide, political, economic, and social goods. In the rush to dig up alternatives, it is important not to lose sight of how and why this liberal conception of democracy has come to dominate and the ways it conditions democratic possibilities.

Open access

Enacting Candor

Podemos and the Analytical Potential of Ocular Democracy

Manuel Kautz

Most citizens of representative democracies do not take political decisions in their everyday lives. Although participation in periodic elections, political parties, or social movements varies, above all, according to socio-economic status, taking a political decision is, in general, a relatively extraordinary event for the vast majority of citizens. The everyday political experience of these citizens is rather structured by watching and listening to political elites. Unlike the tenor of democratic theory, this quotidian mode of passively following politics is ocular democracy’s starting point. So far, the debate on ocular democracy has emphasized its shortcomings as a normative theory. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, this article illustrates the potential of ocular democracy as an analytical tool in the context of intra-party democracy. Podemos’ intra-party procedures are analyzed by complementing an institutional perspective with ocular democracy, thus showing how a party leader inclined to appear particularly venturesome undermines ambitious forms of intra-party democracy.

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The Making of Global Inequality

A Conceptual History, 1945–1980

Christian Olaf Christiansen

Abstract

This article is a history of postwar discourse on an unequal world. This discourse was profoundly shaped by new influences: quantitative data and an expanding inequality research infrastructure, the “birth of development,” decolonization, human rights, the global Cold War, and theories of the world as one integrated global system. Examining academic journal articles written in English, this article traces the emergence of global inequality in the aftermath of the World Food Crisis of 1972–1975. Originally, global inequality was as much about power as about income differentials, mainly referring to multiple inequalities between the so-called Third World and the First. However, even as the late 1960s and the 1970s saw an increased politicization of the discourse on an unequal world, global inequality did not become a key concept in the 1970s.

Open access

Jean-Paul Gagnon, Hans Asenbaum, Dannica Fleuss, Sonia Bussu, Petra Guasti, Rikki Dean, Pierrick Chalaye, Nardine Alnemr, Friedel Marquardt, and Alexander Weiss

This introductory article to Democratic Theory’s special issue on the marginalized democracies of the world begins by presenting the lexical method for understanding democracy. It is argued that the lexical method is better than the normative and analytical methods at finding democracies in the world. The argument then turns to demonstrating, mainly through computational research conducted within the Google Books catalog, that an empirically demonstrable imbalance exists between the democracies mentioned in the literature. The remainder of the argument is given to explaining the value of working to correct this imbalance, which comes in at least three guises: (1) studying marginalized democracies can increase our options for alternative democratic actions and democratic innovations; (2) it leads to a conservation and public outreach project, which is epitomized in an “encyclopedia of the democracies”; and (3) it advocates for a decolonization of democracies’ definitions and practices and decentering academic democratic theory.

Open access

Phillip Becher, Katrin Becker, Kevin Rösch, and Laura Seelig

Focusing on selected “Western” conceptions of democracy, we expose and normatively evaluate their conflictual meanings. We unpack the white democracy of prominent ordoliberal Wilhelm Röpke, which comprises an elitist bias against the demos, and we discuss different assessments of his 1964 apologia of Apartheid South Africa. Our critical-historical study of Röpke’s marginalized meaning of democracy traces a neglected anti-democratic continuity in his work that is to be contextualized within wider elitist (neo)liberal discourses: from his critique of Nazism in the 1930s to the defense of Apartheid in the 1960s. We provide an alternative, marginalized meaning of democracy that draws on Marxist political science. Such a meaning of democracy helps explain why liberal democratic theory is ill equipped to tackle anti-democratic tendencies re-emerging in liberal-democratic polities.

Free access

Part 2: After the Big Bang

The Fusing of New Approaches

Jan Ifversen

Abstract

In part one, I followed the debates and the scholars involved in the big bang of international Begriffsgeschichte. Part 2 takes us from the first encounters between the German and the Anglophone tradition within intellectual history to the more formalized efforts of establishing conceptual history on the international, academic scene. With more scholars joining the debate, the understanding of concepts in language and in context were both broadened and deepened. Case studies from a wider range of European languages added a stronger comparative and transnational perspectives to conceptual history, which would prepare the ground for a conceptual history beyond Europe.