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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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Jean-Paul Gagnon

SUPPLEMENT A

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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Ben Berkowitz and Jean-Paul Gagnon

SeeClickFix began in 2009 when founder and present CEO Ben Berkowitz spotted a piece of graffiti in his New Haven, Connecticut, neighborhood. After calling numerous departments at city hall in a bid to have the graffiti removed, Berkowitz felt no closer to fixing the problem. Confused and frustrated, his emotions resonated with what many citizens in real-existing democracies feel today (Manning 2015): we see problems in public and want to fix them but can’t. This all too habitual inability for “common people” to fix problems they have to live with on a day-to-day basis is a prelude to the irascible citizen (White 2012), which, according to certain scholars (e.g., Dean 1960; Lee 2009), is itself a prelude to political apathy and a citizen’s alienation from specific political institutions.

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Resist and Revivify

Democratic Theory in a Time of Defiance

Jean-Paul Gagnon and Emily Beausoleil

The field of democratic theory is blossoming with strategies to resist violence against democracy and to revivify those democratic institutions that would benefit from conceptual and/or practical reform. We find ourselves not in a period of democratic despondency and political disarray, as less circumspect cynics would have it, but rather in a vitalizing time of defiance. There is power in this. To defy in the name of democracy is to oppose “truthiness,” confront arbitrary decision making, disobey illogic, and dissent from any policy that will, to use Dewey’s phraseology, constitute treason to our democratic ways of life. A time of defiance invites us all to be daring in our compassion for each other, bold in how we explore and care for the many—and diverse—meanings of democracy, audacious in our gentleness toward the earth, and courageous in our advocacy for that paradoxical but poignant practice of democratizing democracy wheresoever and whensoever this need should arise.

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Mark Chou and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Recent years have seen democratic governments face a variety of challenges from both within and without. Endogenously, many established democracies have become pockmarked by factionalism, polarization, fearmongering, and populism. Exogenously, democratic institutions’ effectiveness is now frequently called into question by the rise of autocratic powers and a range of never-before-experienced global crises that have exposed democracy’s many shortcomings. Against this backdrop there have been widespread calls to ensure that democracies and their institutions become more epistocratic and adept at including the interests of aff ected individuals so that the factionalism and polarization leading to populist backlashes can be averted.

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Simon Tormey and Jean-Paul Gagnon

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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Wolfgang Merkel and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Democracy, says Wolfgang Merkel, is not in as deep of an acute crisis as many today think it to be. An examination, for example, of OECD democracies over the last 50 years does not reveal democracy’s wholesale crisis but rather crises in certain sectors of democracy – ones that change over time as the state institutions affected by crises adapt to them and in some manner resolve them. Take, for instance, the improvements made in Western democracies to civil liberties, women in business and parliaments, gay rights, and the protection of minorities. These improvements happened in the last 50 years. Almost simultaneously, however, almost all established democracies developed a crisis with globalized capital that blackmails its governments with the threat of capital flight and a crisis with economic inequality which has resulted in approximately the poorest 1/3rd of most democratic societies dropping-out of each form of political participation. Merkel’s reconsideration of the crisis of democracy reveals that democracies can decline and improve at the same time because crises are sectoral.

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Mark Chou and Jean-Paul Gagnon

This issue of Democratic Theory begins with the article by Monique Deveaux that examines the obstacles to deliberative inclusion, especially with regard to women. In this critical analysis of the potential of deliberative procedures and institutions, Deveaux analyzes land reform in post-apartheid South Africa and suggests strategies for deliberative democrats to redress the conventional exclusion of subordinated members ofsociety.