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Bernard Matolino

The disagreement over what was responsible for arriving at consensual positions, in traditional African polities, is best captured in the classic debate between Kwasi Wiredu and Emmanuel Eze. The former holds that rational persuasion was the sole informant of decision-making while the latter argues that non-rational factors played a crucial role in securing a consensual decision. If Wiredu is correct then consensus could work in modern society as it can be argued that it does not rely on traditionalistic scaffoldings. If, on the other hand, Eze is correct, then consensus cannot work in modern largely urbanised Africa as its traditional underpinnings have largely disappeared. While Emmanuel Ani’s intervention in this debate is welcome for its earnest search for a system that could work, his support for Eze is not bold enough to undermine Wiredu’s rationalistic orientation in consensus.

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Consensus for Whom?

Gaming the Market for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna through the Empire of Bureaucracy

Jennifer E. Telesca

This article takes an inside look at ocean governance and asks what is so good about consensus as the dominant mode of decision making in international law. As an accredited observer of the treaty body known as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), I draw upon three years of ethnographic research to document how global elites in closed-door meetings decided the fate of the planet's most valuable fish – bluefin tuna – now depleted. I probe the diplomatic vernacular of a 'game' to unpack how bureaucratic work got done, most poignantly among rich and rogue delegations. At stake was not only money in glamour fish but also status. Implicated, too, is the 'empire of bureaucracy', or the power of a supranational regulatory regime to fix, manage and reproduce inequalities, even if unknowingly, for the postcolonial organization of world affairs.

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Erasmus Masitera

There has been much debate on the question of rights in African communitarian thinking. Some scholars have averred that duties are prior to rights in African communitarian society, and that to prioritise rights is foreign to the non-Western perspective. Yet, there are others who argue that in non-Western societies rights are prior to duties. I share this view. I present my position by arguing that economic rights in African communitarianism affirms autonomy of the individual, though the same rights are expressed through the ideas of consensus and human well-being. In my argument I state that human well-being is well expressed as a communal effort climaxed through consensus where all these are premised on individual autonomy. By arguing in this way, I respond to the accusation that says African philosophers who argue for the priority of rights have failed to demonstrate how rights are considered prior to duties in African societies.

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Assemblies and the struggle to diffuse power

Ethnographic examples and contemporary practices

Stefano Boni

The article is focused on the practical mechanisms of assembly management in egalitarian settings in a comparative perspective: on the one hand, I examine assemblies in what may be termed classic ethnographic settings (principally East African pastoralists); on the other hand, I turn to meetings in recent social movements (the Occupy movement in the United States and Slovenia; the 15M in Spain; Greece and Bosnia). I have two principal aims. First, I wish to identify and evaluate similarities and differences in the running of meetings with regard to processes of consensus building; the coordination of assemblies through the creation of roles and the menace of leadership; and the management of place, time, and speech. Second, I aim to evaluate current social movements' use of alterpolitics, intended as the practical and imaginary reference to group meetings of the historical, sectarian, or ethnic other.

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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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Family Squabbles

Beyond the Conflict-Consensus Divide

Henrik P. Bang

This article examines the consensus-conflict divide within contemporary democratic theory as manifested in the works of Jürgen Habermas, Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Rancière, and John Rawls. It relates the democratic crisis diagnosis to the presence of this conceptual divide and suggests overcoming it by focusing on the work of Michel Foucault, especially his concept of the “rectangle of the good parrhesia.” Foucault's analysis goes beyond conflict-consensus through its positive and creative reconceptualization of political authority featuring a transformative capacity linked to the idea of telling the truth.

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Laura Verdi

In this article I will discuss the human body, both physical and social, as an instrument of political and aesthetic power and will analyze the processes of its social construction, starting with the notion of Corpus Mysticum Christi as the metaphoric organizational structure of consensus to power. From the Low Middle Ages to the present day, we will observe how the treatment of the body has evolved and how present-day show business and politics make use of charisma, from typically conceived 'concentrated stardom' to a conception of 'diffused stardom'. Both models are given aesthetic significance and rhetorical amplification, thus resulting in images of power and a means of social control. The conclusion of the article examines how power relations are currently being affected in a social environment that is highly influenced by the media and how, no matter which era is being discussed, the existence of the social body still depends on the physical body.

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Osvaldo Croci

The military intervention in Iraq by the United States (US), supported

militarily by Great Britain and politically by a “coalition of the willing,”

which included a large number of current and future European

Union (EU) members but not Germany and France, was undoubtedly

the major foreign policy event of the year. It generated much debate

on concepts such as immediate threat, pre-emptive war, unilateralism,

and multilateralism, as well as on the question of whether the

US, as the sole superpower, has the responsibility to act as a security

provider of last resort when multilateral organizations devoted to this

task become paralyzed. The intervention divided not only the permanent

members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) after

a decade of co-operation but also caused a split in the Atlantic alliance

and among EU members, probably one of the worst to have occurred

on a foreign policy issue in the history of both organizations. Finally,

it put an end—at least temporarily—to that bipartisan consensus in

Italian foreign policy, which had emerged at the end of the 1970s and

consolidated in the 1990s.

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Unambivalent about Ambivalence in the Politics of Mourning

David McIvor’s Mourning in America and Simon Stow’s American Mourning

Greta Fowler Snyder

What does a democratically-productive form of mourning look like in America? David McIvor’s Mourning in America and Simon Stow’s American Mourning argue that it entails the embrace of ambivalence about self and other. Democratically-productive mourning pushes against the tendencies toward idealization and demonization. Embracing ambivalence enables us to move to more effective political engagement in the context of both collaboration and conflict. It allows us to understand that the process of mourning must be ongoing both to protect us from political excesses to which we are prone and to push society toward justice.

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Pascal Wallisch and Jake Alden Whritner

Neuroimaging research suggests that watching a movie synchronizes brain activity between observers. This is surprising in light of anecdotal reports that viewers construct their experience radically differently, consistent with contemporary cognitive media theory. This article empirically tests the degree of agreement in the appraisal of commercially produced major motion pictures. Ratings for more than two hundred carefully selected movies were solicited from a diverse pool of more than three thousand study participants. Doing so shows that intersubjective movie appraisal is strikingly low but significantly different from zero. The article also shows that these ratings correlate only weakly with the judgment of professional movie critics. Taken together, this study supports the notion that movies are an extremely rich, highly dimensional narrative stimulus with many degrees of freedom for viewers to construct their subjective experience in a highly idiosyncratic fashion.