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Open access

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.

Open access

Democratic Procedures Are Not Inherently Democratic

A Critical Analysis of John Keane's The New Despotism (Harvard University Press, 2020)

Gergana Dimova

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.

Open access

Spencer McKay

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.

Open access

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.

Open access

Pluralist Democracy and Non-Ideal Democratic Legitimacy

Against Functional and Global Solutions to the Boundary Problem in Democratic Theory

Tom Theuns

Abstract

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.

Open access

Realizing Interspecies Democracy

The Preconditions for an Egalitarian, Multispecies, World

Sue Donaldson, Janneke Vink, and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Abstract

Sue Donaldson, Janneke Vink, and Jean-Paul Gagnon discuss the problem of anthropocentric democratic theory and the preconditions needed to realize a (corrective) interspecies democracy. Donaldson proposes the formal involvement of nonhuman animals in political institutions—a revolutionary task; Vink argues for changes to the law that would cover nonhuman animals with inviolable political rights; and Gagnon advises a personal change to dietary choices (veganism) and ethical orientations (do no harm). Together, the three proposals point to a future position where humans can participate in a multispecies world in which nonhuman others are freed from our tyrannical grasp.

Open access

Rethinking Modes of Political Participation

The Conventional, Unconventional, and Alternative

Marcin Kaim

Abstract

Political participation is frequently defined as either being conventional or unconventional. This distinction is based on dualistic thinking. Participation is likened to other dualisms, such as legal–illegal, collective–individual, and unity–plurality. Drawing on Niklas Luhmann's system theory, I argue that understanding political participation in terms of dualisms is reductive, as it overlooks those acts of participation that do not fit the conventional–unconventional distinction. To address this issue, the article introduces the notion of alternative political participation. This category is established by conceiving the existing dualism between conventional and unconventional political participation as a continuum of options existing between polar opposites.

Open access

Struggles over Expertise

Practices of Politicization and Depoliticization in Participatory Democracy

Taina Meriluoto

Abstract

There is growing concern among democracy scholars that participatory innovations pose a depoliticizing threat to democracy. This article tackles this concern by providing a more nuanced understanding of how politicization and depoliticization take shape in participatory initiatives. Based on ethnographic research on participatory projects with marginalized people who are invited to act as experiential experts, the article examines how actors limit and open up possibilities to participate. By focusing on struggles concerning the definition of expertise, the article identifies a threefold character of politicization as a practice within participatory innovations. It involves (1) illuminating the boundaries that define the actors’ possibilities; (2) making a connection between these boundaries and specific value bases; and (3) imagining an alternative normative basis for participation.

Full access

American Quarantine

The Right to Housing in a Pandemic

Bonnie Honig

Abstract

In the US, quarantine requires we stay home, but many do not have homes to stay in or may lose theirs due to job or wage loss. For this reason, moratoria have been put on evictions. At the same time, after the latest police killings, and during ensuing protests against racist policing in June 2020, some were arrested for curfew violations, many pulled off the streets but others out of their homes or off their stoops. A real right to housing addresses both homelessness and uncurbed police powers that round up and break in. To address current emergencies and correct larger wrongs of American life, a rent jubilee would better protect tenants than a moratorium. It could be construed as a “taking,” allowed by the 5th Amendment, compensating landlords for their properties’ being taken to serve a “public use.” Popular takings, too, are rising up on behalf of a right to housing that goes beyond rent moratoria for some and the provision of low-grade “public housing” for others.

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Babies and Boomers

Intergenerational Democracy and the Political Epidemiology of COVID-19

Toby Rollo

Abstract

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how public health decisions in mass liberal democracies always reflect a political trade-off between protecting privileged groups and leaving more marginalized groups precariously exposed. Examining the “political epidemiology” of COVID-19, I focus on the ways that the lives and well-being of children are sacrificed to secure adult interests. I argue that in our efforts to protect older adults we have endangered children and abandoned the future of today's youth. This, I conclude, is indicative of a liberal preoccupation with adults and adult forms of agency, a defect that can only be adequately challenged by working toward more robust forms of democratic inclusion that include children and youth.