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Jean-Paul Gagnon

SUPPLEMENT A

2,234 Descriptions of Democracy: An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

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Jean-Paul Gagnon

SUPPLEMENT B

2,234 Descriptions of Democracy: An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

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Jean-Paul Gagnon

SUPPLEMENT C

2,234 Descriptions of Democracy: An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

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2,234 Descriptions of Democracy

An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

Jean-Paul Gagnon

In 2010 Milja Kurki explained that although scholars recognize that democracy is described in a variety of ways, they do not typically engage with its many and diverse descriptions. My aim in this agenda-setting research note is to tackle this quandary by first providing a minimum empirical account of democracy’s descriptions (i.e., a catalogue of 2,234 adjectives that have been used to describe democracy) and secondly by suggesting what democracy studies may gain by compiling this information. I argue that the catalogue of descriptors be applied in four ways: (1) drilling down into the meaning of each description, (2) making taxonomies, (3) rethinking the phenomenology of democracy, and (4) visualizing democracy’s big data. Each of the four applications and their significance is explained in turn. This research note ends by looking back on the catalogue and its four applications.

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Jean-Paul Gagnon

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Little Phil

Changing the Relationship between Philanthropy and Democracy?

Joshua Murchie and Jean-Paul Gagnon

This Practitioner’s Note considers the disruptive function of Little Phil, a mobile app that seeks to democratize philanthropic giving. Although many of the cultural aspects of philanthropy – such as increased control over donation, tracking the impact of one’s giving, and building interpersonal relationships with receivers – can be opened to any person with an app-hosting device and internet access, it cannot supplant the role of big philanthropy and solve Rob Reich’s problem: how to domesticate private wealth so that it serves democratic purposes? Little Phil’s disruption has in concept gotten us halfway to legitimizing philanthropy. Perhaps the uptake of citizens’ panels by large philanthropic foundations will cover the remaining distance.

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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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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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Mark Chou and Jean-Paul Gagnon

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Resist and Revivify

Democratic Theory in a Time of Defiance

Jean-Paul Gagnon and Emily Beausoleil