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Demos and Nation

Misplacing the Dilemmas of the European Union--In Memory of Stanley Hoffmann

Charles S. Maier

“Demos and Nation,” written in homage to the memory of Stanley Hoffmann, critically considers the “no-demos” theory that argues the European Union is necessarily limited in its scope and loyalty because supposedly any authentic democratic political union must rest on a “people” or “demos,” which the EU lacks. There is no European demos, so the proponents argue; only nationstates possess this communal glue. I argue that, first, European history shows the no-demos theory ascribes far too great a unity and cohesion to the process of traditional nation-state formation as well as to current national polities; second, that polities at any level create their demoi through common civic activity, such as voting, political party formation, and meaningful parliamentary policy making; they are not pre-existing. Additionally, current difficulties of the EU should be attributed more to xenophobic populism at the national level than to failings in Brussels. Ultimately the no-demos theory plays into the hands of political leaders and movements that wish to advance their populist and authoritarian agendas at home by stigmatizing the EU.

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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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Wolfgang Merkel

Democracy seems to be inextricably linked to crisis. This is true since the ancient writings of Plato and Aristotle. More recently, the debate over the crisis of democracy goes on under the heading of “postdemocracy.” This article addresses the question of whether the crisis of democracy is an invention of theoretically complex but empirically ignorant theorists who adhere to an excessively normative ideal of democracy, on three levels: first, on the level of quality of democracy indices developed by experts; second, on the basis of the survey reports on the opinion of the demos; third, on a deeper analyses of crucial spheres of democracy. The results hint in different directions. According to expert indices and polls, the message is: there is no crisis of democracy. However, the partial analyses on participation, representation, and effective power to govern reveal unresolved democratic challenges, such as an increasing level of exclusion of the lower third of the demos from participation, an inferior representation of their interests, and a loss of democratic sovereignty in policy making.

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Michael D Royster and Jeffrey D. Hilmer

Goran Therborn. The Killing Fields of Inequality Reviewed by Michael D. Royster

Wendy Brown. Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution Reviewed by Jeffrey D. Hilmer

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The Will of the People?

Schmitt and Rousseau on a Key Question in Democratic Theory

Samuel Salzborn

he question of how to adequately represent the demos in a democracy has always been an issue. Of the many different aspects in the debate between representative and direct democratic approaches, one key point of contention is “the will of the people.” Here, an oft-overlooked question is what takes precedence: “the will” or “the people.” This article addresses the issue by examining Carl Schmitt’s reading (and one-sided slanting) of Rousseau and how it has influenced today’s debate in unacknowledged ways. In scrutinizing Schmitt’s body of work and its particular development of “the will of the people,” I demonstrate that “identitarian” democratic concepts must ultimately remain trapped in a dilemma produced by Schmitt’s reading—one that can only be resolved through representation.

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Jonas Hultin Rosenberg

The question of who ought to be included in the demos is distinct from, and yet related to, the question of how to distribute decisionmaking power among those who are included. Political equality is the most common answer to the former question within democratic theory. In democratic practice, it is usually realized through one person one vote. Within democratic theory, there is not as much agreement as to what the answer to the latter question should be. The answer that has attracted most attention within the scholarly literature is that all those who are affected should be included. However, prominent scholars have argued that this all-affected principle is incompatible with political equality and therefore an unattractive answer to the question of inclusion. This article challenges this critique and argues that it is based on a misconception of political equality and a narrow reading of the all-affected principle.

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Common Democracy

Political Representation beyond Representative Democracy

Alexandros Kioupkiolis

At a time when representative democracies are in deep crisis, this article examines the debate over representation as it appears in contemporary Marxist and poststructuralist political thought. The article discusses, more specifically, Ernesto Laclau’s defense of political representation and pits this against Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s vision of an “absolute democracy” beyond representation, in order to chart a path between and beyond both contrasting positions. The crux of the argument is that in participatory democracies political governance becomes a common affair: a public good accessible to all members of a community on the basis of equality. Such a democratic regime contrasts with both representative democracies, where the assembled demos is excluded from any effective participation in the everyday exercise of major political power, as well as direct democracy, where the collective sovereign would be fully present to itself, total and undivided. Common political representation is open to all, inclusive, participatory, and accountable.

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James Cronin, George Ross, and James Shock, eds. What's Left of the Left: Democrats and Social Democrats in Challenging Times (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011)

Reviewed by Willy Jou

James Bohman, Democracy across Borders: From Dêmos to Dêmoi (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2007)

Reviewed by by Conrad King

Ritter, Gerhard, The Price of German Unity. Reunification and the Crisis of the Welfare State, translated by Richard Deveson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Reviewed by Joyce M. Mushaben

Michaela Hoenicke Moore, Know Your Enemy. The American Debate on Nazism, 1933-1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Reviewed by John Bendix

Elena Mancini, Magnus Hirschfeld and the Quest for Sexual Freedom: A History of the First International Sexual Freedom Movement (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

Reviewed by Leila J. Rupp

Paul Betts, Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Reviewed by Charles S. Maier

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Making the Case for Kleptocratic Oligarchy

(as the Dominant Form of Rule in the United States)

Donald M. Nonini

Mainstream pundits, the media, and many academics represent the United States of America’s political system as a democracy, and the vast majority of its middle- and upper-middle-class citizens certainly think it is. I would like to argue against this idea, to propose instead that the US form of rule at present is not a democracy but instead an emergent kleptocratic oligarchy. According to the Webster’s Third International Dictionary (1976), this is “despotic power exercised by a privileged clique,” one moreover devoted at the most mundane level to kleptocracy, or rule while engaged in plunder of the public treasury. This emergent oligarchy is the undeclared alternative base of rule to the demos or ‘people’, whose organized governance constitutes a democracy. Although kleptocratic oligarchical rule is not entirely new to the US—the ‘Gilded Age’ from the 1880s to 1910, marked by corporate ascendancy and control of the US Senate, was very similar in many respects (Phillips 2004: 236–242)—I would argue that the contemporary American oligarchy has new strategies, organization, and objectives.

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Ryan T. Jones, Anna Bara, Galina V Grosheva, Ekaterina Gruzdeva, Peter Schweitzer, Kathryn Demps and Roza Laptander

A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule Jonathan Schlesinger (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017), 288 pp. ISBN: 9780804799966

Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Stalin’s Soviet Union: New Dimensions of Research Andrej Kotljarchuk and Olle Sundström, eds. (Stockholm: Elanders, 2017), 283 pp., paperback $27.00. ISBN: 978-91-7601-777-7.

Kosmologiia i praktika sibirskogo shamanizma Elena V. Nam (Tomsk: Tomskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 2017), 296 pp. ISBN: 978-5-7511-2521-9.

Kul’tura i resursy. Opyt etnologicheskogo obsledovaniia sovremennogo polozheniia narodov Severnogo Sakhalina Dmitrii Funk, ed. (Moscow: “Demos,” 2015), 272 pp. ISBN 978-5-9904710-6-1.

Maritime Hunting Culture of Chukotka: Traditions and Modern Practices Igor Krupnik and Rachel Mason, eds. (Anchorage, AK: National Park Service, Shared Beringian Heritage Program, 2016), 343 pp. ISBN: 9780990725251. Litsom k moriu: Pamiati Liudmily Bogoslovskoi Igor Krupnik, ed. (Moscow: Moskva, 2016), 647 pp. ISBN 9785600013650.

T-Bone Whacks and Caviar Snacks: Cooking with Two Texans in Siberia and the Russian Far East Sharon Hudgins (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2018), 448 pp. ISBN: 9781574417142.

Bij de Joekagieren. Het oudste toendravolk van Noord-Oost Siberië / Life with the Yukaghir: Northeast Siberia’s Oldest Tundra People Cecilia Odé (Lias, Uitgeverij: Verschijningsjass, 2018), 240 pp., €29.95 (paperback). ISBN: 978-90-8803-099-4.