What is democratic theory? The question is surprisingly infrequently posed. Indeed, the last time this precise question appears in the academic archive was exactly forty years ago, in James Alfred Pennock’s (1979) book Democratic Political Theory. This is an odd discursive silence not observable in other closely aligned fields of thought such as political theory, political science, social theory, philosophy, economic theory, and public policy/administration – each of which have asked the “what is” question of themselves on regular occasion. The premise of this special issue is, therefore, to pose the question anew and break this forty-year silence.
Rikki Dean, Jean-Paul Gagnon, and Hans Asenbaum
Against Functional and Global Solutions to the Boundary Problem in Democratic Theory
and Some Puzzles about Global Democracy .” Journal of Social Philosophy 37 ( 1 ): 81 – 107 . 10.1111/j.1467-9833.2006.00304.x Christiano , Thomas . 2008 . The Constitution of Equality: Democratic Authority and Its Limits . Oxford : Oxford
The Preconditions for an Egalitarian, Multispecies, World
Sue Donaldson, Janneke Vink, and Jean-Paul Gagnon
agency that excludes the active participation of myriad members of the demos on the basis of their alleged incompetence. Vink: It surely is an interesting, resourceful, and rich philosophy of interspecies democracy, and before responding to what has
The Conventional, Unconventional, and Alternative
( 2 ): 293 – 311 . doi: 10.1332/030557314X13959960668217 . 10.1332/030557314X13959960668217 Hegel , George W. F. 1956 . The Philosophy of History . New York : Dover Publications . Hooghe , Marc . 2014 . “ Defining political participation
The Dynamics of Democratization: Elites, Civil Society and the Transition Process, by Graeme Gill. London: Macmillan, 2000. ISBN 0-333-80197
History of Shit, by Dominique Laporte. Translated by Nadia Benabid and Rodolphe el-Khoury. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000. ISBN 0-2626-2160-6
An Introduction to Philosophy, by Jon Nuttall. Cambridge: Polity, 2002. ISBN 0-7456-1662-3
Andrew Benjamin and Francesco Borghesi
This special issue arose from a workshop on “Peace and Concord from Plato to Lessing”, organised by the editors and which took place at the University of Sydney on 18 and 19 September 2017. Central to the work of both the editors is the relationship between the concepts of ‘concord’, ‘peace’ and ‘dignity’ within a setting created by a concern with the development of a philological anthropology. Their work combines both intellectual history and philosophy, a combination that is reflected in the contents of the special issue of Theoria. The importance of these terms is that they allow for another interpretation of the ethical and the political. Central to both is the location of human being within a larger cultural context. That context demands an approach in which philosophy does not exclude history, and history recognises that it is already informed philosophically. If there is a unifying term, it is ‘culture’. The approach taken within the larger project starts with the centrality of culture as that which demands to be thought. And yet culture is neither tranquil nor unified. As Walter Benjamin argued, there ‘is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism’. Allowing for culture’s centrality entails a reconfiguration of both philosophy and intellectual history.
African Philosophy and Rights
Motsamai Molefe and Chris Allsobrook
A useful way to approach the discourse of rights in African philosophy is in terms of Kwasi Wiredu’s (1996) distinction between cultural particulars and universals. According to Wiredu, cultural particulars are contingent and context-dependent. They fail to hold in all circumstances and for everyone (Wiredu 2005). Cultural universals are transcultural or objective (Wiredu 2005). Examples of cultural particulars include dress styles, religious rituals, social etiquette and so on. One example of a cultural universal is the norm of truth. One may imagine a society with different methods of greeting, dress, and raising children, but one cannot imagine a robust society which rejects the norm of truth as the basis of social practices.
This edition of Theoria brings contributions that engage, provocatively, with an unusually wide range of issues. They include reflections on Wittgenstein’s Lecture on Ethics, an exploration of the concept of trust in Locke’s thought, an account of Ellen Meiksins Wood’s pioneering contribution to the recasting of political thought, and an essay concerned to revisit and re-assert the importance of Noam Chomsky’s thought with respect to the articulation of a principled socialist politics. They include, too, reflections on J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K and Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, a critical examination of aspects of Nancy Cartwright’s seminal contributions to the philosophy of science, and conclude with a critique of the case made for ‘illiberal democracy’ in the context of economic modernisation.
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.
Ever since Livy proclaimed that ‘freedom is to be in one’s own power’, if not from long before and in other contexts, the relationship between freedom and power has been an enduring concern of social and political theorists. It has withstood even Isaiah Berlin’s sharp distinction between seemingly irreconcilable forms of freedom and much of the subsequent theoretical and philosophical debates that it spawned. The history of political thought is littered with thinkers who have opposed freedom and power, arguing that liberty can only be truly attained free from power and domination (republicans) or in the absence of external impediments imposed by other human beings (liberals); but there are also many examples of arguments that identify a close and intriguing link between them, especially in the sphere of politics, that emanate from radicals and conservatives alike, thinkers such as Machiavelli, Montaigne, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Arendt and Foucault. Moreover, those in the former camp tend to think of freedom in formal and abstract terms, while proponents of the latter eschew this now normal tendency in political philosophy and instead think of freedom in fully substantive, concrete and even materialist terms. Hobbes is an unusual and unique figure as his account of freedom inspires members of both parties, that is those concerned with the formal character of freedom and those troubled by its more substantive components and conditions, which is why it is only right that we start this special issue on freedom and power with an analysis of Hobbes’ account of freedom.