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.
The Autonomy and the Primacy of the Political
Sergio Fabbrini and Vincent Della Sala
There has been a continuous discussion since the second half of the
1980s on the transformation of the most important political, institutional,
and social structures within states, especially European
states. If a polity is defined as the various spheres—political, institutional
and social—that constitute states, then it may be argued that
changes on a European and global scale, along with transformations
that affect the sub-national level of government, have given rise to a
series of structural constraints and factors that shape political and
social life well beyond the borders of the national state. It is a discussion
that has not spared Italy, especially given the scale of change
experienced in the 1990s. This is not to say that internal factors no
longer exert an element of agency. Rather, endogenous forces need to
be placed within a broader context. The links between exogenous
influences and endogenous dynamics might help explain the continuity
and change of the structures of various national polities. The
events of 2003, presented in the chapters that follow, provide ample
material in this respect.
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.
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.
Defining Politics in the Emerging Global Order
In the wake of globalisation different social science disciplines have found themselves entering into similar terrains of inquiry. However, each discipline tends to draw on different and often contradictory understandings of the political, and of related notions such as power. The lack of a shared notion of politics may prevent social scientists from gaining important insights from other disciplines. In this paper I therefore seek to demonstrate that seemingly contradictory notions of politics are better seen as different forms of political interaction. I define politics as activities through which people and groups articulate, negotiate, implement and enforce competing claims. By distinguishing different types of claims made within different institutional circumstances, I outline three basic forms of political interaction: governance, stalemate and social dilemma, and give examples of how each of these forms of political interaction has emerged in response to the global integration of market in different circumstances and areas of the world.
Rethinking Aesthetic Politics
This essay reassesses the German-Jewish social and cultural critic, Walter Benjamin's famous, yet widely misunderstood thesis of the aestheticisation of politics with reference to the development of the mass media and the crisis of democracy. I argue that his thesis of the aestheticisation of politics represents the focal point of his account of both the crisis of liberal democracy as a deliberative and representative political system and the emergence of fascism as a form of direct political communication between a political power and the public. My examination of Benjamin's analysis of the interplay between fascist politics and the mass media leads to a wider critical consideration of the function of political spectacle in the media age. In so doing, I seek to draw out its theoretical relevance for our critical understanding of the linkage between new media and democracy, be it 'new' or 'old' democracy.
Ruy Llera Blanes and Abel Paxe
In this article we chart the histories and political translations of atheist cultures in Angola. We explore the specific translations of atheist ideologies into practical actions that occurred in the post-independence period in the 1970s–1980s and perform an ethnographic exploration of their legacies in contemporary Angola. We also debate the problem of atheism as an anthropological concept, examining the interfaces between ideology, political agency, and social praxis. We suggest that atheism is inherently a politically biased concept, a product of the local histories and intellectual traditions that shape it.
Articulation of Political Subjectivities among Workers
The article examines the political mobilisation and construction of modern political identities among workers during the 1905-1907 Revolution in the Kingdom of Poland. Political process, creation and alternation of the political subjectivities of workers are explained in terms of hegemonic articulations as presented by the political discourse theory of Ernesto Laclau. While social claims merged with resistance against the national oppression of the Tsarist regime and the struggle for social and political recognition, political subjectivities took various contingent and competitive forms; thus the same demands could be integrated into different political narratives and collective identities. Combining discourse theory and process tracing makes alternations of the political field in time intelligible.
The Generative Power of Political Emotions
Mette-Louise Johansen, Therese Sandrup and Nerina Weiss
Moral outrage has until now been conceptualized as a call to action, a reaction to injustice and transgressions, and a forceful motor for democratic participation, acts of civil disobedience, and violent and illicit action. This introduction goes beyond linear causality between trigger events, political emotions, and actions to explore moral outrage as it is experienced and expressed in contexts of political violence, providing a better understanding of that emotion’s generic power. Moral outrage is here understood as a multidimensional emotion that may occur momentarily and instantly, and exist as an enduring process and being-in-the-world, based on intergenerational experiences of violence, state histories, or local contexts of fear and anxiety. Because it appears in the intersubjective field, moral outrage is central for identity politics and social positioning, so we show how moral outrage may be a prism to investigate and understand social processes such as mobilization, collectivities, moral positioning and responsiveness, and political violence.
Judaism and Political Theology
Alana M. Vincent
The mobilization of theological concepts within the political sphere is increasingly dependent upon the capacity of those concepts to bear the weight of a discourse of universalism; this universalization becomes problematic when such theo-political concepts are then taken up as terms of commonality in interreligious dialogue. This article will focus on one such concept, redemption, as a case study, uncovering the ways that assumptions of universalism might betray the mutual understanding towards which dialogue aims.