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Jean-Paul Gagnon

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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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Mark Chou and Jean-Paul Gagnon

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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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Stephen Elstub and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Editors' introduction to the interview: Stephen Elstub articulates that deliberative democracy, as a theory, can be seen as having gone through various distinct generations. The first generation was a period where the normative values and the justifications for deliberative democracy were set out. This prompted criticism from difference democrats who saw the exclusion of other forms of communication by the reification of reason in deliberation as a serious shortcoming of the theory. This in part prompted the growth of the second generation of deliberative democracy, which began to focus more on the theory's operability. These theorizations, from the mostly 1990s and early 2000s, have led to the third generation of the theory—one embodied by the empirical turn. Elstub uses this genealogy as a foundation from which to argue that the current focus of deliberative democracy is on implementing deliberative systems rather than only deliberative institutions and this could potentially represent a fourth generation of deliberative democracy.

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Simon Tormey and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Abstract:

In reinterrogating core concepts from his 2015 book, The End of Representative Politics, Simon Tormey explains the nature of emergent, evanescent, and contrarian forms of political practice. He sheds light on what is driving the political disruption transpiring now through a series of engaging comments from the field on well-known initiatives like Occupy, #15M, and Zapatistas and also lesser-known experiments such as the creation of new political parties like Castelló en Moviment, among others. Postrepresentative representation, it is argued, is not an oxymoron; it, like the term antipolitical politics, is rather a provocative concept designed to capture the radically new swarming politics underway in countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Iceland. Citizens are tooling up with ICTs, and this has led to resonant political movements like #15M in Spain or Occupy more broadly. Key takeaways from this interview include the double-edged nature of representation and the fact that new forms of political representation are breaking the mould.

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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.