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War, Politics and Race

Reflections on Violence in the 'War on Terror'

Saul Newman and Michael P. Levine

The authors argue that the 'war on terror' marks the ultimate convergence of war with politics, and the virtual collapse of any meaningful distinction between them. Not only does it signify the breakdown of international relations norms but also the militarization of internal life and political discourse. They explore the 'genealogy' of this situation firstly through the notion of the 'state of exception'—in which sovereign violence becomes indistinct from the law that is supposed to curtail it—and secondly through Foucault's idea that politics is essentially a form of warfare. They suggest that these two ways of approaching the question of violence can only be understood through a racist dimension, which forms the hidden underside of the 'war on terrorism'. In other words, our contemporary situation is characterized by the mobilization not only of fundamentalist and conservative ideologies, but, increasingly, racial antagonisms and prejudices directed towards the Muslim other.

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On Mouffe's Agonism

Why It Is Not a Refutation of Consensus

George Vasilev

Chantal Mouffe's conceptualization of a deliberatively forged consensus as a hegemony and her assertion that adversarial politics best nurtures the conditions of freedom have had a profound influence on contemporary democratic thought. This article takes a critical view of this trend, arguing that a norm of consensus is a very precondition, rather than impediment, for the kind of pluralistic democracy Mouffe and other agonists wish to promote. It is asserted that Mouffe's dehistoricized refutation of consensus lacks causal or explanatory relevance to how concrete actors embedded in empirical situations relate to one another and that the very preparedness to find something acceptable about another is at the heart of what it means to treat others justly.

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Véronique Pujas

The debate in 1999 on how to finance the Italian party system centred

on two aberrations from the European norm that are linked to

the wider issue of the unfinished transition of the Italian political

system. The first of these aberrations is that the Italian political

class has yet to find a definitive remedy for the illegal funding of

the country’s political parties. Although public funding has been

envisaged since the law of 1974, subsequent legislation has

always been determined by circumstances and has never

addressed the real needs of parties. The second problem concerns

the control of three television channels by the state, on the one

hand, and of three further channels by a media entrepreneur and

political leader, Silvio Berlusconi, on the other. In the opinion of

many observers, this situation comprises an interweaving of interests

harmful to democratic pluralism.

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The Collectivisation of Pleasure

Normative Sexuality in Post-1966 Romania

Erin K. Biebuyck

This article examines several sex manuals from Nicolae Ceauşescu’s Romania for the ideologically-infused sex norms they contain. These manuals constructed a sexual ideal that located pleasure in the marital couple rather than in the individual, defining ‘normal sexuality’ as heterosexual and privileging its collective significance as an act for reproduction over the experience of pleasure by an individual. This collective model of pleasure was key to the construction of the communist subject as a member of a collective rather than as an autonomous individual. While this collective subject had roots in Romanian pre-communist traditions, communist sex experts rejected conventional gender roles according to which women are subordinate to men. Subsequent comparisons with contemporaneous American sex manuals reveal that the Romanian communist discourse on pleasure differed significantly from that of popular American sex advice of the same period.

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Sustainable Forest Management

The Role of Government Agencies, NGOs, and Local Communities in Western Australia

Leonie van der Maesen and Timothy Cadman

This article details the engagement by the Department of Physical Geography of Utrecht University in the Netherlands with rural communities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to assist them in gaining a better understanding of the environmental impacts of the management practices of the governmental forest authorities of the state of Western Australia in pursuit of international timber exports. The study commences with a description of the unique characteristics of WA’s forest communities. It continues with an account of governmental international forest policy norms and the discourse of sustainable forest management (SFM). This is followed by a delineation of the interactions between the academic community and civil society in their engagement with governmental departments in arguing the case for conservation. The final section makes some concluding observations on the lessons that can be learned from the failure of the state government to ensure the sustainable management of the forests of Western Australia.

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Jean-Paul Gagnon and Mark Chou

This general issue of Democratic Theory begins with an important contribution by George Vasilev (La Trobe University) that reflects on Chantal Mouffe’s notion of democratic agonism. Mouffe has, primarily as part of her critique of deliberative democracy, asserted that consensus necessarily creates exclusion. What is important is that democratic dialogue remains open-ended. For her this means that democrats should view themselves as adversaries rather than antagonists who bring discussions to a close. Vasilev critiques Mouffe’s assertion by arguing that she holds a one-sided understanding of consensus that creates a less credible form of adversarial politics. By crafting a “norm of consensus”, Vasilev thus demonstrates that consensus formation can ensure the very condition of democratic freedom itself. In doing this, Vasilev’s argument brings a fresh perspective to ongoing debates in deliberative and agonistic democracy.

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Daughters of Two Empires

Muslim Women and Public Writing in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878–1918)

Fabio Giomi

This article focuses on the public writings of Muslim women in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Habsburg period. From the beginning of the twentieth century, several Muslim women, mainly schoolgirls and teachers at Sarajevo's Muslim Female School, started for the first time to write for Bosnian literary journals, using the Serbo-Croatian language written in Latin or Cyrillic scripts. Before the beginning of World War I, a dozen Muslim women explored different literary genres—the poem, novel, and social commentary essay. In the context of the expectations of a growing Muslim intelligentsia educated in Habsburg schools and of the anxieties of the vast majority of the Muslim population, Muslim women contested late Ottoman gender norms and explored, albeit timidly, new forms of sisterhood, thus making an original contribution to the construction of a Bosnian, post-Ottoman public sphere.

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Interview

Propaganda’s Role in Liberal Democratic Societies

Jason Stanley and John B. Min

Stanley and Min discuss how propaganda works in liberal democratic societies. Stanley observes that the inability to address the crisis of liberal democracies can be partially explained by contemporary political philosophy’s penchant for idealized theorizing about norms of justice over transitions from injustice to justice. Whereas ancient and modern political philosophers took seriously propaganda and demagoguery of the elites and populists, contemporary political philosophers have tended to theorize about the idealized structures of justice. This leads to a lack of theoretical constructs and explanatory tools by which we can theorize about real-life political problems, such as mass incarceration. Starting with this premise, Stanley provides an explanation of how propaganda works and the mechanisms that enable propaganda. Stanley further theorizes the pernicious effects that elitism, populism, authoritarianism, and “post-truth” have on democratic politics.

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Systematizing Democratic Systems Approaches

Seven Conceptual Building Blocks

Rikki Dean, Jonathan Rinne, and Brigitte Geissel

The notion that democracy is a system is ever present in democratic theory. However, what it means to think systemically about democracy (as opposed to what it means for a political system to be democratic) is under-elaborated. This article sets out a meta-level framework for thinking systemically about democracy, built upon seven conceptual building blocks, which we term (1) functions, (2) norms, (3) practices, (4) actors, (5) arenas, (6) levels, and (7) interactions. This enables us to systematically structure the debate on democratic systems, highlighting the commonalities and differences between systems approaches, their omissions, and the key questions that remain to be answered. It also enables us to push the debate forward both by demonstrating how a full consideration of all seven building blocks would address issues with existing approaches and by introducing new conceptual clarifications within those building blocks.

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Massimo Bordignon and Gilberto Turati

In respect of fiscal decentralization, the year 2007, and more generally

the Parliament, saw some progress, above all in relation to the regulation

of intergovernmental pacts, legislative proposals, and the institutional

relationship between different levels of government. There

were also some failures, particularly with regard to the continual intervention

by the central government in the matter of local taxes. The

year also saw the emergence of substantial problems in relation to

local debt. These had been on the increase in recent years, partly as

a consequence of the introduction of new financial instruments and

partly because of explosive growth in some areas of local expenditure,

notably in the health sector. The central government tackled some

of these problems effectively—for example, those in areas affected

by the new norms on infrastructure and the Health Pact—while its

approach toward others was ineffectual. In general, the difficulties and

internal contradictions of the parliamentary majority constrained its

legislative capacity, opening up the possibility that its more innovative

proposals—in particular, those relating to the constitutional reform of

2001—would not be implemented.