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Giuseppe Ballacci

In the literature there are two well-established but opposite readings of Arendt: as an agonistic theorist and as a deliberative one. In between these two positions a smaller number of scholars have argued that in Arendt these two dimensions can to a large extent be reconciled. This paper follows this third path but tries to bring it one step further. In particular, it defends the idea that those scholars who have proposed this third reading of Arendt have fallen short of revealing the degree to which deliberation and agonism are, for her, interwoven. Through an original reading of Arendt’s views on judgment, persuasion, distinction and Eichmann’s banality, the paper clarifies why, for her, agonism and deliberation are not only compatible but actually mutually dependent. In other words, it clarifies why she believes that there can be no deliberation without agonism and no agonism without deliberation.

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On Mouffe's Agonism

Why It Is Not a Refutation of Consensus

George Vasilev

Chantal Mouffe's conceptualization of a deliberatively forged consensus as a hegemony and her assertion that adversarial politics best nurtures the conditions of freedom have had a profound influence on contemporary democratic thought. This article takes a critical view of this trend, arguing that a norm of consensus is a very precondition, rather than impediment, for the kind of pluralistic democracy Mouffe and other agonists wish to promote. It is asserted that Mouffe's dehistoricized refutation of consensus lacks causal or explanatory relevance to how concrete actors embedded in empirical situations relate to one another and that the very preparedness to find something acceptable about another is at the heart of what it means to treat others justly.

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Maria Ferretti and Enzo Rossi

Agonist theorists have argued against deliberative democrats that democratic institutions should not seek to establish a rational consensus, but rather allow political disagreements to be expressed in an adversarial form. But democratic agonism is not antagonism: some restriction of the plurality of admissible expressions is not incompatible with a legitimate public sphere. However, is it generally possible to grant this distinction between antagonism and agonism without accepting normative standards in public discourse that saliently resemble those advocated by (some) deliberative democrats? In this paper we provide an analysis of one important aspect of political communication, the use of slippery-slope arguments, and show that the fact of pluralism weakens the agonists' case for contestation as a sufficient ingredient for appropriately democratic public discourse. We illustrate that contention by identifying two specific kinds of what we call pluralism slippery slopes, that is, mechanisms whereby pluralism reinforces the efficacy of slippery-slope arguments.

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Agony and the Anthropos

Democracy and Boundaries in the Anthropocene

Amanda Machin

The Anthropocene diagnosis, in which humanity has become a disruptive geological force, indicates an irresolvable political paradox. The political demos is inevitably and necessarily bounded. The Anthropocene, however, heralds the anthropos—the globalized more-than-human identity. The anthropos challenges the maintenance of political boundaries, yet any robust response to ecological predicament must be underpinned by a decisive demos. This article, informed by theories of political agonism, suggests that this paradox importantly provokes ongoing political contestation of the inevitable yet contingent exclusions from politics and the proper place of political boundaries in the Anthropocene. The article concludes that the Anthropocene diagnosis provides an opportunity for a lively democratic politics in which the demos is always prompted to reimagine itself and asks, who are “we” in the Anthropocene?

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“I Am Trying” to Perform Like an Ideal Boy

The Construction of Boyhood through Corporal Punishment and Educational Discipline in Taare Zameen Par

Natasha Anand

through a kind of Foucauldian agonism—performed almost in the manner of a duel between Ishaan, and other boys and men, ending with the victory of Ishaan and the establishment of a new order. How is this agonism played out in Taare Zameen Par

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What Can a Political Form of Reconciliation Look Like in Divided Societies?

The Deliberative “Right to Justification” and Agonistic Democracy

Burcu Özçelik

Deliberative and agonistic democrats have conceived of political reconciliation and its pursuit in different forms. In this article, I explore how insight can be derived from key tenets of both strands of democratic theory in the struggle to achieve political reconciliation in war-torn or divided contexts. Rather than subsume disagreement or straitjacket it in processes of “rational” deliberation, I propose contingent, open-ended, but inclusive contestation to achieve political reconciliation. This article explores how the deliberative “right to justification,” set out by critical theorist Rainer Forst, can be put to work in an agonistic politics of reconciliation. I want to show that deliberation over the right to justification and the corollary duty to justify constitute conjoined means of consensus-seeking that can be contingent and fluid and can account for entrenched relations of power and inequality—two dynamics that deliberative theorists have been accused of deflecting or obscuring.

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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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Putting Strangeness in Perspective

John Fletcher’s The Island Princess

Anja Müller-Wood

I consider ‘strangeness’ as a performative phenomenon directly related to the experimental multiperspectivity of the early Stuart stage. As such, it is not a quality ascribed to individual characters, but the norm ruling interactions between them: all characters are strangers to each other. This constellation drives theatrical agon and suspense, turning spectators into privileged witnesses to an all-encompassing strangeness of which characters are often unaware. This theatrical take on strangeness supplements and potentially undercuts contextual and thematic explanations of the early modern stage’s fascination with the odd and exotic. Thus in John Fletcher’s The Island Princess (1621), the conflict between Christianity and Islam ostensibly depicted in this tragicomedy is challenged, if not superseded, by a more existential and ubiquitous notion of strangeness at the play’s core.

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Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice

Democratic Theory through an Agonistic Lens

Marie Paxton

, agonism raises critical and normative questions about issues, such as diversity and inclusion, marginalization and domination, democratic apathy and engagement, and community and values. Democratic Theory as Normative Proposals Connolly's normative

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Agonistic Interpretation

A New Paradigm in Response to Current Developments

Nicole Deufel

to responding to these challenges than the current discourse. I call this approach agonistic interpretation in reference to Chantal Mouffe’s (2013) concept of agonism. Although it shares elements with existing practices such as Facilitated Dialogue