It is said in some quarters that political theory need not, and perhaps should not, be a “historical” enterprise. It should be concerned with discovering and articulating timeless truths or addressing “perennial problems.” Or it should be an ahistorical “analytical” study in which one aims to answer important questions definitively and once and for all. The author argues that these and other attempts to de-historicize political theory are misguided and that, indeed, political theory is inescapably historical in several senses of that term. Firstly, works of political theory are written in particular places and times by authors attempting to address particular questions. Secondly, these works are received and read by audiences in other times. And thirdly, the meanings of these works are interpreted by readers through the medium of one or another interpretive framework, which is itself historically datable. All these considerations point to the conclusion that political theory is necessarily “historical.”
In the early months of 2007, the question of legal recognition for de
facto couples was one of the main talking points in public and political
debate. Having been included in the center-left Unione coalition’s
2006 general election manifesto, it gave rise to a parliamentary bill
known as the DICO. In this chapter, we will examine the issue and
implications of civil unions in order to gain a better understanding of
the current relationship between the Church, the Catholic community,
and Italian politics. Moreover, as we will see, analyzing events surrounding
the DICO inevitably leads to the sensitive subject of the Italian
state’s lay character. Campaigns for and against the DICO bill were
launched in the media and at the ground level not only by the Church
and specific parties, but also by ad hoc groups of Catholics and lay
people involved in politics. Indeed, we can view the DICO episode
against a wider background of regulation (or attempted regulation)
concerning ethically sensitive questions in recent years. It therefore
offers an interesting perspective from which to consider the type of
political representation adopted by the Church.
The Art of the Political Relationship in Lebanon
This article aims to analyse the patron–client relationship through a detailed ethnography of the everyday life of Walid Junblat's followers in Lebanon. It reveals how intimate people are with political figures, talking to them (in the form of their pictures), talking about them, thinking through them, playing off this intimacy to enter the political competition. Patrons also play their part in this relationship. The weekly political gatherings held at Junblat's Palace are the apex of this aesthetic of power. Detailed observations indicate how the lord orchestrates and varies the tempo of his interactions with the ritual audience, adding complexity and fluidity to the relation.
Strongly marked by the weight of the past, the French approach to State-Religion-Society relations has distinct qualities, and especially a strong confrontational and emotional dimension. This essay address the evolution of these relations and their tensions by focusing on three subjects that make manifest the relationship between politics and religion in important ways, namely, schools, sects, and Islam. The arena of the school is especially significant in three respects: the link between public and private schools; the question of what should be taught about religion, and the display of religious expression by students. The essay considers these matters within the context of wider transformations in religion (secularization) and politics (disenchantment and changes in the state's role in society). It concludes by situating recent developments in the context of globalization and especially Europeanization.
John Bendix and Niklaus Steiner
Although political asylum has been at the forefront of contemporary
German politics for over two decades, it has not been much discussed
in political science. Studying asylum is important, however,
because it challenges assertions in both comparative politics and
international relations that national interest drives decision-making.
Political parties use national interest arguments to justify claims that
only their agenda is best for the country, and governments argue
similarly when questions about corporatist bargaining practices arise.
More theoretically, realists in international relations have posited
that because some values “are preferable to others … it is possible to
discover, cumulate, and objectify a single national interest.” While
initially associated with Hans Morgenthau’s equating of national
interest to power, particularly in foreign policy, this position has
since been extended to argue that states can be seen as unitary rational
actors who carefully calculate the costs of alternative courses of
action in their efforts to maximize expected utility.
The Autonomy and the Primacy of the Political
Political realism claims that politics should be understood as politics and not as a derivative of any other field of human activity. While contemporary realists often argue for the autonomy of politics, this article suggests that only the primacy of politics can be the starting point of political realism. The aim of the article is to expose a conceptual deficiency, namely, the unclear difference between the autonomy and the primacy approach in contemporary realist theory by going back to Carl Schmitt’s contribution to political realism. It will be argued that Schmitt’s concept of the political foreshadowed the ambiguities of contemporary realist theory, exemplified by key authors such as Bernard Williams, Raymond Geuss and Mark Philp.
Brian C. Rathbun
Germany's behavior during the lead-up to the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003 seemed to confirm that the country is marked by a strategic culture of pacifism and multilateralism. However, a closer look at German actions and pattern of participation in military operations reveals that German pacifism is a myth. There was no cross party consensus on German foreign policy in the 1990s around a principled opposition to the use of force. Even in the early years after the Cold War, the Christian Democrats began very quickly, albeit deliberatively and often secretively, to break down legal and psychological barriers to the deployment of German forces abroad. Pacifism persisted on the left of the political spectrum but gave way following a genuine ideological transformation brought about by the experience of the Yugoslav wars. The nature of Germany's objection to the Iraq invasion, which unlike previous debates did not make ubiquitous references to German history, revealed how much it has changed since the end of the Cold War. Had the election in 2002 gone differently, Germany might even have supported the actions of the U.S. and there would be little talk today of a transatlantic crisis. It is now possible to treat Germany as a "normal" European power.
In the past century, Germany, for better and for worse, offered itself
as a natural laboratory for political science. Indeed, Germany’s
excesses of political violence and its dramatic regime changes largely
motivated the development of postwar American political science,
much of it the work of German émigrés and German-Jewish
refugees, of course. The continuing vicissitudes of the German experience
have, however, posed a particular challenge to the concept of
political culture as elaborated in the 1950s and 1960s,1 at least in
part to explain lingering authoritarianism in formally democratic
West Germany. Generally associated with political continuity or only
incremental change,2 the concept of political culture has been illequipped
to deal with historical ruptures such as Germany’s “break
with civilization” of 1933-1945 and the East German popular revolution
of 1989. As well, even less dramatic but still important and relatively
rapid cultural changes such as the rise of a liberal democratic
Verfassungspatriotismus sometime around the late 1970s in West Germany3
and the emergence of a postmodern, consumer capitalist culture
in eastern Germany since 19944 do not conform to mainstream
political culture theory’s expectations of gradual, only generational
change. To be sure, continuity, if not inertia, characterizes much of
politics, even in Germany. Still, to be of theoretical value, the concept
of political culture must be able not only to admit but to
account for change.
Hailey L. Huckestein, Steven M. Mikulic and Jeffrey L. Bernstein
When studying the political development of young people, level of education matters. However, instead of concentrating on the amount of education and how it affects one’s political attributes (vertical effects of education), we consider the effects of characteristics of one’s education, specifically one’s college major, among people with similar levels of education (horizontal effects). Our study demonstrates that the discipline in which one majors affects one’s political development, over and above the expected self-selection effects. While our results are modest, they suggest that there is much to be gained from exploring horizontal variations in education and its effects on political attributes.
Emanuele Massetti and Giulia Sandri
In 2013, Italian voters were called to the ballot boxes not only to renew Parliament but also to elect about 600 local councils. In several cases, serious political scandals had led to early elections. An analysis of electoral supply, campaigns, and results suggests the emergence of an ambivalent pattern: on the one hand, regional and local elections appear to be “second order” if we look at the level of turnout; on the other hand, they appear to be “first order” if we look at party/coalition preferences. Except in highly regionalized party systems (e.g., in Valle d'Aosta, Alto Adige/Südtirol, and Trentino), mainstream parties/coalitions performed better in regional/local elections than in the national election. The victory of the center-left coalition and the bipolar dynamic of competition appeared to be stronger at the sub-national level than at the national one.