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Conceptual History and Politics

Is the Concept of Democracy Essentially Contested?

Oliver Hidalgo

This article surveys the history of the concept of democracy from Ancient times to the present. According to the author, the conceptual history of democracy shows that the overwhelming success of the concept is most of all due to its ability to subsume very different historical ideas and realities under its semantic field. Moreover, the historical evolution of the concept reveals that no unequivocal definition is possible because of the significant paradoxes, aporias, and contradictions it contains. These are popular sovereignty vs. representation, quality vs. quantity, liberty vs. equality, individual vs. collective, and, finally, the synchronicity between similarities and dissimilarities. The ubiquitous usage of democracy in present-day political language makes it impossible to speak of it from an external perspective. Thus, both democratic theory and practice are suffused with empirical and normative elements.

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Rights of Noncitizens

Asylum as an Individual Right in the 1949 West German Grundgesetz

Hanna-Mari Kivistö

Post–World War II developments concerning citizenship and access as one of the dimensions of citizenship are examined through the prism of noncitizenship and rights, using the drafting of the asylum paragraph of the 1949 Grundgesetz of the Federal Republic of Germany as a specific case study. The aim of this article is to look into the creation of the right to asylum in West Germany, to examine its political history by exploring its development and by searching for its conceptual, political, and rhetorical origins. The article investigates the birth of the unique conceptualization of asylum in the debates of the Parliamentary Council, the constitutional and quasi-parliamentary assembly responsible for the writing of the postwar Basic Law, and examines the political choices, motivations, and compromises behind its creation. To connect the matter of asylum to a wider problematic related to noncitizens and rights, the article benefits from the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt, with reference to her writings on human rights and refugees in the immediate post–World War II period.