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Unambivalent about Ambivalence in the Politics of Mourning

David McIvor’s Mourning in America and Simon Stow’s American Mourning

Greta Fowler Snyder

What does a democratically-productive form of mourning look like in America? David McIvor’s Mourning in America and Simon Stow’s American Mourning argue that it entails the embrace of ambivalence about self and other. Democratically-productive mourning pushes against the tendencies toward idealization and demonization. Embracing ambivalence enables us to move to more effective political engagement in the context of both collaboration and conflict. It allows us to understand that the process of mourning must be ongoing both to protect us from political excesses to which we are prone and to push society toward justice.

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What is “Political” Participation

Beyond Explicit Motivations and Oppositional Actions

Sadiya Akram and David Marsh

Wood and Flinders re-center political participation on the idea of “nexus politics.” The effort is laudable because it contributes to other ongoing efforts at broadening our understanding of the nature of ‘political’ participation. Unfortunately, in our view, the authors misspecify new forms of political participation that have emerged by: (1) failing to take Henrik Bang’s work seriously; (2) focusing exclusively on motivation/intention, so that an action is “political,” only if the person acting sees it as “political”; (3) seeing all political participation as necessarily oppositional.

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What is populism? Who is the populist?

A state of the field review (2008-2018)

Jean-Paul Gagnon, Emily Beausoleil, Kyong-Min Son, Cleve Arguelles, Pierrick Chalaye and Callum N. Johnston

Both “populism” and “populist” have long been considered ill-defined terms, and therefore are regularly misapplied in both scholarly and popular discourses.1 This definitional difficulty is exacerbated by the Babelian confusion of voices on populism, where the term’s meaning differs within and between global regions (e.g. Latin America versus Western Europe); time periods (e.g. 1930s versus the present), and classifications (e.g. left/ right, authoritarian/libertarian, pluralist/antipluralist, as well as strains that muddy these distinctions such as homonationalism, xenophobic feminism and multicultural neonationalism). While useful efforts have been made to navigate the vast and heterogeneous conceptual terrain of populism,2 they rarely engage with each other. The result is a dizzying proliferation of different definitions unaccompanied by an understanding as to how they might speak to each other. And this conceptual fragmentation reinforces, and is reinforced by, diverging assessments of populism which tend to cast it as either “good” or “bad” for democracy (e.g. Dzur and Hendriks 2018; Müller 2015).

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Amor Bellitās

Arendt on Kant and Aesthetic Judgment in Politics

Alex Donovan Cole

Hannah Arendt discovers a theory of politics in Immanuel Kant’s aesthetic treatise, the Critique of Judgment. However, the relationship between Kant and Arendt’s politics remains unfinished. This article seeks to present a syncretic view of Arendt’s work on politics with her work on Kantian judgment. Vital to Arendt’s politics is the concept of amor mundi, the love of the world. Yet, in order for amor mundi to resonate with groups and individuals in the world, one must view the world as beautiful and, in Arendt’s words, ‘a fit place for men to live’. In other words, one must love beauty to love the world and be prepared to execute judgment upon particulars in that world according to Arendt. Such use of this judgment, however, is likely to err in ‘dark times’. Thus, Arendt views the love of the world and beauty as an open-ended process.

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On the Interrelation of Production and Reproduction

The Analytical Contribution of Marxist-feminism

Matthew J. Smetona

Contemporary social and political theorists generally recognise that Marx and Engels’ critical analysis of capitalist society centres on the production of value through the production of things. However, what is often unrecognised in considerations of Marx and Engels is how their analysis is based on the interrelation of production and reproduction. Nevertheless, the implications of this interrelation for feminist critique are explored in the writings of Marx and Engels only tangentially. These implications are developed from Marx’s analysis by Leopoldina Fortunati and Silvia Federici into a singular synthesis of the Marxist and feminist modes of critique. This development deserves greater recognition, and this essay will seek to articulate how the social implications of this interrelation (1) are expressed to a limited extent in the classical texts of Marxism and (2) are developed by Fortunati and Federici into the analytic framework of social reproduction as the core of Marxist-feminist revolutionary struggle.

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Thabo Mbeki’s ‘AIDS Denialism’

Contradicting pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance?

Simphiwe Sesanti

In his nine years as South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki was known as a leading pan-Africanist and an advocate of the African Renaissance. Pan-Africanism is an ideology aimed at uniting Africans into a strong force for total liberation. The African Renaissance is a project aimed at restoring Africans’ self-esteem damaged by colonialism and slavery. During and after his presidency Mbeki was criticised by the local and international media for putting at risk hundreds of thousands of South African lives by questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, and blocking drugs that could have saved many lives. If true, this would suggest that there is a contradiction between Mbeki’s pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance, which are supposed to be life-affirming on one hand, and exposing Africans to the perils of a fatal disease, on the other. This article examines Mbeki’s opponents’ arguments, and Mbeki’s stance in the context of pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.

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Christine Hobden

Citizens increasingly engage with political issues in new ways by addressing politicians via social media, campaigning at international forums, or boycotting corporate entities. These forms of engagement move beyond more regulated electoral politics and are rightly celebrated for the ways they increase representation and provide new channels of accountability. Yet, despite these virtues, political engagement beyond voting inevitably tends to entrench and amplify inequality in citizen influence on political decision-making. The tendency toward inequality undermines relational equality between citizens and muddies the channels of political accountability and responsibility. This article unpacks the ostensible tension and argues that it reveals to us another strength in views which hold the state to be citizens’ collective project and provides argumentative resources to motivate democracies to give due attention to ensuring that democratic participatory channels remain fit for purpose in an ever-changing society.

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2,234 Descriptions of Democracy

An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

Jean-Paul Gagnon

In 2010 Milja Kurki explained that although scholars recognize that democracy is described in a variety of ways, they do not typically engage with its many and diverse descriptions. My aim in this agenda-setting research note is to tackle this quandary by first providing a minimum empirical account of democracy’s descriptions (i.e., a catalogue of 2,234 adjectives that have been used to describe democracy) and secondly by suggesting what democracy studies may gain by compiling this information. I argue that the catalogue of descriptors be applied in four ways: (1) drilling down into the meaning of each description, (2) making taxonomies, (3) rethinking the phenomenology of democracy, and (4) visualizing democracy’s big data. Each of the four applications and their significance is explained in turn. This research note ends by looking back on the catalogue and its four applications.

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Anthony Egan SJ and Ricardo de São João

Race, Class and Power: Harold Wolpe and the Radical Critique of Apartheid, by Steven Friedman. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-86914-286-5.

Jan Smuts and the Indian Question, by Vineet Thakur. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-86914-378-7.

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Breaking Barriers and Coded Language

Watching Politics of Race at the Ballpark

Thomas D. Bunting

Drawing on recent literature on political spectatorship, I show how sport, and baseball in particular, can both illuminate and shape American politics. Following the history of racial segregation and immigrant assimilation in baseball, one sees that it mirrors American race politics on the whole. I argue that Jackie Robinson and the desegregation of baseball changed both American politics and the horizons within which citizens think. Although it is tempting to focus on this positive and emergent moment, I argue that for the most part, looking at the history of race in baseball shows instead coded language that reinforces racial stereotypes. This example of baseball and race shows how powerful spectatorship can be in the democratic world. Spectatorship need not be passive but can be an important sphere of activity in democratic life.