Normative democratic theory with a focus on civic engagement is increasingly interested in how participatory instances connect into democratic systems (Dean, Rinne, et al. 2019; Elstub et al. 2018). The deliberative perspective has pioneered this debate and proposes a systemic view that observes how everyday talk and media discourses connect deliberative forums including parliaments, mini-publics, and protest formations (Mansbridge 1999; Mansbridge et al. 2012). While various approaches within the deliberative systems debate can be differentiated (Owen and Smith 2015), they commonly understand deliberative qualities as distributed within a broader system and focus on scaling up democratic deliberation through the transmission from the public to state institutions (Chambers 2012; Dryzek 2009).
Pluralizing the Debate
Dominik Austrup, Marion Repetti, Andreas Avgousti, Th. W. Bottelier, and Antonin Lacelle-Webster
William A. Galston, Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018)
Gergana Dimova, Democracy Beyond Elections: Government Accountability in the Media Age (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)
David Stasavage, The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020)
G. John Ikenberry, A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020)
Cristina Lafont, Democracy without Shortcuts: A Participatory Conception of Deliberative Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020)
Jean-Paul Gagnon and Emily Beausoleil
This seventeenth issue of Democratic Theory marks a major shift for the journal: this will be its last general issue until further notice. We have received many excellent special issue proposals and have also developed various special issues internally in order to speak to unfolding events and current scholarly developments. Given the journal has two issues per year, this has meant Democratic Theory no longer has space in the years to come for unsolicited, single-article submissions. We are excited about the direction this takes us, opening as it does far more opportunity for concerted dialogue and collective inquiry on timely themes, particularly given platforms for special issues can be rare in the discipline. We welcome future proposals for special issues and look forward to those already in development contributing to the broader conversations in contemporary democratic theory.
Thinking about the Political with a Capital P
This article intervenes in the debates on reforming EU democracy support by offering a “radical reformist” approach. It departs from the observation that literature lacks a sustained theorization of reform which more effectively considers contestation as the very condition of democracy. As such, in contrast to withdrawing democracy from its contested nature, this article presents a theoretical argument, as informed by Chantal Mouffe’s take on radical democracy, through which the EU more democratically can engage with and support the plurality of different contestations of democracy. In particular, a closer engagement with the radical democratic embrace of the political will allow for better reflection on how EU democracy support already is or can become democratic, empowering and receptive to the way democracy is understood locally.
Two maladies that have been incipient in Liberal Democracy since its birth have finally struck at once. The “tyranny of the majority” and “administrative despotism”—first identified by Alexis de Tocqueville almost two centuries ago—have combined in the form of a new, much more threatening democratic mutation. We are witnessing the rise of “despotic majoritarianism,” in which citizens are simultaneously given less and less say in the political process, just as more and more is being done in their name. This new strain of democratic disease threatens not just the United States but societies across Europe, Latin America, and South Asia. This article explores the nature of despotic majoritarianism, its manifestation today, and how we might combat it.
The Role of Framing and Emotions
Are televised election debates (TEDs) a blessing for democracy, educating citizens and informing them of their electoral options? Or should they be viewed as a curse, presenting superficial, manipulating rhetoric in one-way communication? In this article, I evaluate TEDs from a deliberative point of view, focusing on the potential positive and negative outcomes of framing by politicians, as well as on the pros and cons of displaying emotions in debates. I argue that the use of these two rhetorical devices in TEDs is potentially helpful in inspiring deliberation, perspective-taking and subsequent reflection in both politicians and voters. This leads me to conclude that televised election debates should be critically approached as communicative venues with potential deliberative qualities.
A Conversation on Adorno, Baudrillard, Braidotti and Marcuse
Siphiwe I. Dube
This article provides an analysis of the way in which contemporary forms of intelligence discourse (Jean Baudrillard), in similar fashion to political art (Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse), function by delimiting critical thought. The intelligence discourse critiqued is extolled through things such as progressive intelligence acquisition (Flynn effect) and the supposed indispensability of Democratic reason (Hélène Landemore), amongst other qualities. In support of its argument, the article focusses specifically on Baudrillard’s analysis of the notion of the intelligence of evil, as well as on the Frankfurt School’s critique of massification. However, the article also notes limitations in these thinkers’ recovery and defence of critical thought in response to the delimitation posed by intelligence and massification, and argues for Rosi Braidotti’s evaluation of thought as nomadic as a necessary corrective.
Dawid Rogacz, Donald Mark C. Ude, and Tshepo Mvulane Moloi
Douglas L. Berger, Indian and Intercultural Philosophy: Personhood, Consciousness and Causality. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 240 pp.
Joseph C. A. Agbakoba, Development and Modernity in Africa: An Intercultural Philosophical Perspective, Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2019, 405 pp.
Adekeye Adebajo (ed.), The Pan-African Pantheon: Prophets, Poets and Philosophers, Auckland Park, South Africa: Jacana Media, 2020. 655 pp.
While aligned with John Neville Figgis’ pluralism and Marxist socialism, Harold Laski endorsed liberal and democratic values. However, he synthesised several elements from older liberal theories in a way that diluted the division to which these theories had adhered, namely that between the private and the political spheres. The resulting combination preserves privacy’s status as the realm where individuals are free to pursue their separate ends, but enables essentially private activities based in voluntary social spaces to infuse the space of politics. From this emerged a vision of liberal democracy, in which freedom plays out in multiple private spaces that do not require an autonomous civic arena to complement them. The combination was reached within the contexts of mid-century thinking about the welfare state and a broader project of reformulating democracy by reducing its equation with representation.
The Image and Function of Lycurgus’ Heritage
Filippo Del Lucchese
In this article, I explore the meaning and function of Lycurgus in Machiavelli’s thought. While the exemplarity of the mythical Spartan legislator progressively fades in Machiavelli’s thought in favour of the Roman model, Lycurgus’ reforms are central in Machiavelli’s works on two issues of primary importance: wealth and land distribution. First, I analyse Machiavelli’s use of the ancient sources on both Lycurgus and other Spartan legislators to show how the former builds a selective and strategically balanced reading of the ancient sources to build an image of the latter as a pro-popular ruler and of the subsequent Spartan reformers as followers not only of the mythical legislator generally, but also of his most controversial and popularly oriented attempts to reform property ownership in ancient Sparta. Lycurgus reveals how Machiavelli, far from seeing mixed government as the best form of government, promotes a strongly anti-aristocratic model. Second, I show that in Machiavelli’s thought the Spartan question can largely be seen as a background for his reading of Roman history, particularly its most crucial, conflictual and controversial period – that in which the Gracchi brothers’ attempted to achieve agrarian reform.