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Between the Social and the Political

The Role of the Proto-Political Sphere in Political Participation

Pia Rowe and David Marsh

While Wood and Flinders’ work to broaden the scope of what counts as “politics” in political science is a needed adjustment to conventional theory, it skirts an important relationship between society, the protopolitical sphere, and arena politics. We contend, in particular, that the language of everyday people articulates tensions in society, that such tensions are particularly observable online, and that this language can constitute the beginning of political action. Language can be protopolitical and should, therefore, be included in the authors’ revised theory of what counts as political participation.

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Beyond Left and Right

New Perspectives on the Politics of the Third Republic

Linda E. Mitchell

The articles in this issue all reflect on the various ways in which political trends during the period of the Third Republic have been categorized by both historians of the period and the political actors themselves. Ranging in topic from political trends in the French military in the years after the Dreyfus Affair to the participation of women in the politics of the extreme Right, these pieces focus especially on the need to transcend categories of Left and Right in order to discuss more accurately the ways in which the political party system developed, in particular during the years between the world wars.

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David Marsh

This article focuses on four areas in which there have been putative changes in democratic practices and processes over the last two decades: decline in, or changing forms of, political participation; the growing power of the corporate sector; the decline in state capacity and, relatedly, the problems of producing what is considered by some to be successful policy; and the growth of depoliticization and anti-politics. The article argues that while not all has changed, these are important, and worrying, developments. Subsequently, the article briefly examines possible ways in which we might re-engage citizens and recouple the government and citizens. Given space-limitations, this piece is best viewed as an informed argument.

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Wolfgang Merkel

Democracy seems to be inextricably linked to crisis. This is true since the ancient writings of Plato and Aristotle. More recently, the debate over the crisis of democracy goes on under the heading of “postdemocracy.” This article addresses the question of whether the crisis of democracy is an invention of theoretically complex but empirically ignorant theorists who adhere to an excessively normative ideal of democracy, on three levels: first, on the level of quality of democracy indices developed by experts; second, on the basis of the survey reports on the opinion of the demos; third, on a deeper analyses of crucial spheres of democracy. The results hint in different directions. According to expert indices and polls, the message is: there is no crisis of democracy. However, the partial analyses on participation, representation, and effective power to govern reveal unresolved democratic challenges, such as an increasing level of exclusion of the lower third of the demos from participation, an inferior representation of their interests, and a loss of democratic sovereignty in policy making.

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Neither Reformers nor Réformés

The Construction of French Modernity in the Nineteenth Century

Gavin Murray-Miller

Modernity has typically been considered a process consisting of “modernizing” initiatives concerned with nation-building, industrial economic development, and new social and political practices associated with democratization. This article engages ongoing debates regarding the import and meaning of modernity for historians and argues in favor of an historically situated understanding of the modern based upon an examination of social power and identity in post-revolutionary France. In particular, it assesses the transformation of social and political relationships in the nineteenth century as France embraced mass democracy and overseas imperial expansion in North Africa, arguing that modernity became a convenient means of preserving elite primacy and identity in an age increasingly oriented toward egalitarianism, democratic participation, and the acquisition of global empires.

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Uffe Jakobsen

This article traces the uses of the concept of citizenship in Danish public discourse in light of the theoretical framework of conceptual history. The author draws upon parliamentary debates, media articles, and debates on political subjects that are part of the textual corpus that served to create The Danish Dictionary in order not only to identify the different usages and conceptual changes of “citizenship” but also to identify the actors using the concept. In addition to mapping the use of “citizenship” in its traditional meanings, such as the entitlement to rights, political identity, civic virtue, and political participation, the Jakobsen encounters a new meaning, namely, citizenship as “free consumer choice.” This conceptual change, however, is only espoused by elected politicians, while ordinary people tend to preserve the traditional meanings of citizenship.

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Adele Webb

Public ambivalence towards democracy has come under increasing scrutiny. It is a mood registered perhaps most clearly in the fact populist figures, from Trump to Orbàn to Duterte, appear to carry strong appeal despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, they pose a threat to democratic institutions and processes of governance. Are ambivalent citizens the grave threat to democracy they are often portrayed to be in media and academic discourse on populism? In this article, I contend that citizens’ ambivalence about democracy is a more complex, spirited and volitional idea than is acknowledged in the current discussion of populism. Drawing on psychoanalysis and critical social thought, I embrace a conception of citizens’ ambivalence in a democracy as both immanent and desirable. I argue ambivalence can be a form of participation in democracy that is crucial to safeguarding its future.

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Where Only Wind Was Once Sown

The Tradition of Republicanism and the Agrarian Question in Brazil

Heloisa Maria Murgel Starling

The article traces the reception of different strands of Republicanism in Brazil. French republicanism inspired authors such as Euclides da Cunha in his realization that a true Brazilian republic would only be achieved with the inclusion of its vast interior and its destitute population. But the reception of republicanism in Brazil also drew from Anglo-Saxon sources, which resulted also in an emphasis on the political nature of the community. American republicanism, with its conception of territorial expansion, land possession, and active economic participation added a further dimension to Brazilian republicanism. In particular, Teofilo Otoni's attempt to create a political community in the Mucury Valley was modeled after the ideals of American republicanism. Even if the Brazilian republicanism that emerged from the reception of these strands failed to impose its agenda over the political mainstream, it provided a unifying ideology for the opposition throughout the Second Empire and the First Republic, and still constitutes a source of inspiration for political reform and criticism.

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Andrea Felicetti

This article analyzes contemporary democracies from a deliberative democratic standpoint and focuses on the connection between public and empowered spaces. The idea of deliberative systems and the concept of “transmission” are introduced to discuss the ways in which the public is able to affect the empowered spaces. While elections perform important democratic functions, alone they cannot provide a good quality means for connecting deliberation in the public to that of actors in the empowered space. The problem with transmission is exacerbated to the extent that alternative forms of participation are neglected. The limited ability of the public to affect the empowered space in deliberative and democratic ways contributes to the crisis of democratic systems. One solution to this problem is to acknowledge the role of citizens' deliberation. The article argues for the systematic introduction of spaces for citizens' deliberation that would parallel existing decision-making.

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Katja Mäkinen

The question in this article is how citizenship is reinvented and recontextualized in a newly founded European Union after the launching of Union Citizenship. What kind of conceptions of citizenship are produced in this new and evolving organization? The research material consists of documents presented by EU organs from 1994 to 2007 concerning eight EU programs on citizenship and culture. I will analyze conceptual similarities (continuities) and differences (discontinuities) between these documents and previous conceptualizations in various contexts, including citizenship discussions in the history of integration since the 1970s as well as theories of democracy and nation-states. Based on the analysis of participation, rights, and identity as central dimensions of citizenship, I will discuss the relationship of Union Citizenship to democracy and nationality.