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What’s a Political Theorist to Do?

Rawls, the Fair Value of the Basic Political Liberties, and the Collapse of the Distinction Between ‘Ideal’ and ‘Nonideal’ Theory

Susan Orr and James Johnson

The primary task of political theory on one common view is to first articulate ideals or principles and only then consider how the practices and institutions that constitute the political world as we know it might be brought into line with the

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Re-conceptualising Political Alienation

On Spectators, Spectacles and Public Protests

Anthony Lawrence A. Borja

Politics usually takes the form of brawls ranging from the verbal and civilised, to the physical and savage, if not deadly encounters. These public engagements are political spectacles projecting narratives that are attractive to people who share the sentiments made public in these spectacles, and a following of spectators that, in sustaining their spectatorship, keeps the spectacle in its status. I note that spectators are attached and concerned with the narratives (i.e.from the causes and actors involved to the eventual results) behind and projected by such spectacles, and that this attachment in turn defines and sustains their spectatorship. Political alienation is a condition shared by both the apathetic and spectators. However the case of spectators is more complex and merits closer analysis in order to attain an encompassing understanding of political alienation. In this article, I will argue and illustrate that political alienation must be understood as a sustainable process constituted and driven by sustained spectatorship (i.e.sustained relationship between spectators and a political spectacle) made possible by a habitus of disempowerment in everyday life.

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Terence Ball

It is said in some quarters that political theory need not, and perhaps should not, be a “historical” enterprise. It should be concerned with discovering and articulating timeless truths or addressing “perennial problems.” Or it should be an ahistorical “analytical” study in which one aims to answer important questions definitively and once and for all. The author argues that these and other attempts to de-historicize political theory are misguided and that, indeed, political theory is inescapably historical in several senses of that term. Firstly, works of political theory are written in particular places and times by authors attempting to address particular questions. Secondly, these works are received and read by audiences in other times. And thirdly, the meanings of these works are interpreted by readers through the medium of one or another interpretive framework, which is itself historically datable. All these considerations point to the conclusion that political theory is necessarily “historical.”

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Intimate Politics

The Art of the Political Relationship in Lebanon

Isabelle Rivoal

This article aims to analyse the patron–client relationship through a detailed ethnography of the everyday life of Walid Junblat's followers in Lebanon. It reveals how intimate people are with political figures, talking to them (in the form of their pictures), talking about them, thinking through them, playing off this intimacy to enter the political competition. Patrons also play their part in this relationship. The weekly political gatherings held at Junblat's Palace are the apex of this aesthetic of power. Detailed observations indicate how the lord orchestrates and varies the tempo of his interactions with the ritual audience, adding complexity and fluidity to the relation.

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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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Benyamin Neuberger

This article explores the ideological underpinnings of the major Jewish political camps in Israel and the Yishuv—the left, the Orthodox, the national right, the bourgeois center—and evaluates the extent to which they are compatible with liberal democracy as commonly understood in the West. It also analyzes quasi-democratic and non-democratic aspects of older Jewish traditions based on the Torah, the Talmud, and the Halakhah. While the history of Zionism and the Zionist movement contained definite democratic components, Israel’s political system was shaped by a range of anti-democratic traditions whose resonance is still felt today.

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David F. Patton

cases. After all, it is not the first time that a challenger party joined the Bundestag to the chagrin of the political establishment. In 1953, a refugee party—Bloc of Expellees and Those Deprived of Rights ( bhe ) entered the Bundestag after securing

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Jean-Paul Willaime

Strongly marked by the weight of the past, the French approach to State-Religion-Society relations has distinct qualities, and especially a strong confrontational and emotional dimension. This essay address the evolution of these relations and their tensions by focusing on three subjects that make manifest the relationship between politics and religion in important ways, namely, schools, sects, and Islam. The arena of the school is especially significant in three respects: the link between public and private schools; the question of what should be taught about religion, and the display of religious expression by students. The essay considers these matters within the context of wider transformations in religion (secularization) and politics (disenchantment and changes in the state's role in society). It concludes by situating recent developments in the context of globalization and especially Europeanization.

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John Bendix and Niklaus Steiner

Although political asylum has been at the forefront of contemporary

German politics for over two decades, it has not been much discussed

in political science. Studying asylum is important, however,

because it challenges assertions in both comparative politics and

international relations that national interest drives decision-making.

Political parties use national interest arguments to justify claims that

only their agenda is best for the country, and governments argue

similarly when questions about corporatist bargaining practices arise.

More theoretically, realists in international relations have posited

that because some values “are preferable to others … it is possible to

discover, cumulate, and objectify a single national interest.” While

initially associated with Hans Morgenthau’s equating of national

interest to power, particularly in foreign policy, this position has

since been extended to argue that states can be seen as unitary rational

actors who carefully calculate the costs of alternative courses of

action in their efforts to maximize expected utility.

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Laurence McFalls

In the past century, Germany, for better and for worse, offered itself

as a natural laboratory for political science. Indeed, Germany’s

excesses of political violence and its dramatic regime changes largely

motivated the development of postwar American political science,

much of it the work of German émigrés and German-Jewish

refugees, of course. The continuing vicissitudes of the German experience

have, however, posed a particular challenge to the concept of

political culture as elaborated in the 1950s and 1960s,1 at least in

part to explain lingering authoritarianism in formally democratic

West Germany. Generally associated with political continuity or only

incremental change,2 the concept of political culture has been illequipped

to deal with historical ruptures such as Germany’s “break

with civilization” of 1933-1945 and the East German popular revolution

of 1989. As well, even less dramatic but still important and relatively

rapid cultural changes such as the rise of a liberal democratic

Verfassungspatriotismus sometime around the late 1970s in West Germany3

and the emergence of a postmodern, consumer capitalist culture

in eastern Germany since 19944 do not conform to mainstream

political culture theory’s expectations of gradual, only generational

change. To be sure, continuity, if not inertia, characterizes much of

politics, even in Germany. Still, to be of theoretical value, the concept

of political culture must be able not only to admit but to

account for change.