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Gender, Leadership and Representative Democracy

The Differential Impacts of the Global Pandemic

Kim Rubenstein, Trish Bergin, and Pia Rowe

participation. These factors profoundly affect levels of trust in public decision making. The COVID-19 pandemic provides a useful framework to reflect on how the leadership “picture” literally looks and the place of gender in thinking about the underpinnings of

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Nexus Politics

Conceptualizing Everyday Political Engagement

Matthew Flinders and Matthew Wood

Existing research on alternative forms of political participation does not adequately account for why those forms of participation at an “everyday” level should be defined as political. In this article we aim to contribute new conceptual and theoretical depth to this research agenda by drawing on sociological theory to posit a framework for determining whether nontraditional forms of political engagement can be defined as genuinely distinctive from traditional participation. Existing “everyday politics” frameworks are analytically underdeveloped, and the article argues instead for drawing upon Michel Maffesoli’s theory of “neo-tribal” politics. Applying Maffesoli’s insights, we provide two questions for operationally defining “everyday” political participation, as expressing autonomy from formal political institutions, and building new political organizations from the bottom up. This creates a substantive research agenda of not only operationally defining political participation, but examining how traditional governmental institutions and social movements respond to a growth in everyday political participation: nexus politics.

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COVID and the Era of Emergencies

What Type of Freedom is at Stake?

Danielle Celermajer and Dalia Nassar

action, what is needed are educational, institutional, and social actions that will better enable individuals to form political bonds among each other and with the world in ways that inspire their participation in shaping the conditions of their

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Crisis of Democracy?

Recognizing the Democratic Potential of Alternative Forms of Political Participation

Brendan McCaffrie and Sadiya Akram

According to the mainstream literature on political participation, declining rates of voting and party and interest group membership reflect a crisis of democracy in Western democracies. In this article, we challenge this view by highlighting the rise of alternative forms of political participation that operate outside formal arenas. We suggest that the mainstream approach ignores such forms of political participation for two reasons: First, it operates with a narrow arena definition of politics; second, it is based on the assumption that non-participation in arena politics results from political apathy. We suggest that there is not a crisis of political participation, but there is a growing crisis in engagement resulting from an uncoupling between citizens and the state. Halting this form of democratic decline through a recoupling process will require changes on the part of governments and citizens.

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Marcos S. Scauso, Garrett FitzGerald, Arlene B. Tickner, Navnita Chadha Behera, Chengxin Pan, Chih-yu Shih, and Kosuke Shimizu

inclusion and exclusion within the body politic, and create the boundary of participation and privilege in liberal democracies. The neoliberal turn, notwithstanding its contradictions, contestations, and temporal and geographical variation, unifies many of

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Wolfgang Merkel and Jean-Paul Gagnon

) , thinks outcomes like a strong democratic ethos, functional political rights, social justice, and participation in governance should be integrated into definitions of democracy. As a result, I end up with a mid-range definition of democracy. This means

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Jean-Paul Gagnon and Mark Chou

This issue begins with Peter Strandbrink’s argument that “standard liberal democratic theory should be pressed significantly harder to recognize the lexical and conceptual fact that civic political and cognitive participation in mass liberal democracies belong to different theoretical species.” It is by conflating both of these theoretical species, which Strandbrink sees as the dominant tendency in contemporary democratic theory, that we inhibit our ability to critically evaluate “epistocratic theoretical registers.” Further unsettling is Stranbrink’s view that, once separated from each other, neither the theories of civic political or cognitive participation offer much help in dealing with the rise of “alt-facts” or “post-truth” in liberal democratic societies today.

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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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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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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.