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Palmer and Furet

A Reassessment of The Age of the Democratic Revolution

Marvin R. Cox

The article argues that Robert R. Palmer's venerable, neglected study of the Atlantic Democratic Revolution offers a means for transcending misconceptions in the now canonical writings of François Furet. First, Furet conceived of the French Revolution as a purely politico-cultural phenomenon. Palmer, by relying on Tocqueville and rejecting Marxist postulates, shows that it was a non-capitalist bourgeois revolution. A second, and more important, argument is that Palmer's case for the place of the French Revolution in the history of liberal democracy is stronger than Furet's. Furet maintains that in France a viable democratic regime became possible only when leaders of the Third Republic repudiated the Revolution and its legacy. Palmer demonstrates that the first French Republic set precedents for the Third, and for liberal democracy throughout Europe, by surviving for eight years against anti-democratic forces and by serving in its last years as a school of democratic politics.

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Nagas as a ‘Society against Voting?’

Consensus-Building, Party-less Politics and a Culturalist Critique of Elections in Northeast India

Jelle J. P. Wouters

Interrogating the normative notion of ‘man the voter’, this article draws on ethnography among the Chakhesang Naga in Northeast India to communicate a cosmopolitan, culturalist critique – and an answer to this critique – of liberal democracy’s hallmark of party-based elections, individual autonomy and equal voting rights. While Nagas have been decorated as ‘traditional democrats’, their sense of the good political life is shaped by values of communal harmony, consensus-building and complimentary coexistence. However, these are threatened by practices and principles of liberal democracy, which led Phugwumi villagers to attempt a procedural adaptation of elections by substituting individual voting for consensus-building and the selection of a leader. I use this ethnographic case to provincialize the sprawling contemporary sense of ‘liberal universalism’, and to postulate that, in their political sociality, Nagas are a ‘society against voting’, an adaptation of Pierre Clastres’ (1977) Society against the State.

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Peter Hudson

This article compares and contrasts liberal democracy and national democracy. It attempts this by focusing on each of these as specific state forms with an effectivity or 'tilt' of their own which includes a determinate preconstruction of the category of the People. It is argued, inter alia, that internal to national democracy is a conception of colonialism (and anti-colonialism) and that the national-racial reference is thus internal to the national democratic conception of equality. In conclusion it is proposed that the tilt of a state form is expressed via the distinction of grammatical mood between the imperative and the subjunctive and that the 1994 South African Constitution, when read in this way, is more liberal democratic than national democratic.

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Tenuous Belonging

Citizenship and Democracy in Mozambique

Jason Sumich

This article examines changing ideas of who constitutes a 'deserving' and 'full' citizen in Mozambique, from independence in 1975 to the present. I argue that the leadership of the ruling Frelimo Party attempted to occupy a position above society where it could determine the practices and behaviors that made one a loyal citizen and, conversely, those that made one an 'alien' or enemy. The adoption of liberal democracy in 1990 undermined the party's right to define what a 'true' or 'good' Mozambican is, but not the underlying structural grammar. Thus, the meaning of citizenship is increasingly a floating signifier. To be designated an 'outsider' is to be an enemy, but it is no longer clear who has the power to define who is a 'true' Mozambican and who is not.

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William L. McBride

From the very beginning of his explicitly political thinking until the end of his life, Jean-Paul Sartre was always cognizant of the fact that the typical electoral system, whether dominated by two or by several "parties," that is to be found in Western countries and that is vaunted as the pinnacle of real democracy amounted to a profound mystification. That is why, at the time of the centenary of his birth, he is owed a renewed respect for his ideas in this area. I do not intend to examine here the evolution of Sartre?s political thought, or even his views with respect to the Eastern European countries, the "socialism" of which, as he eventually discovered, was scarcely more real than their "democracy." Rather, I shall confine myself to recalling certain elements, especially certain iconoclastic elements, of that thought. I shall do so with a view to taking a clear-headed look at a possible future in which those icons will have disappeared.

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From Schmitt to Foucault

Inquiring the Relationship between Exception and Democracy

Sara Raimondi

This article examines the debated relationship between liberal- democratic politics and states of exception in conditions of emergency. After Walter Benjamin and Giorgio Agamben, it is often maintained that today we live in a situation of perennial exceptionalism, where emergency measures have become a regular practice even by governments we name ‘democratic’. In these circumstances, exception is deemed to threaten democracy and hinder individual and collective political agency. Yet, such interpretation remains rigidly focused on the expanded governmental powers ushered by the exception. The article first unpacks how the relationship between exception and democracy has been differently addressed by juridical and biopolitical approaches. Then, it attempts an alternative heuristic: it discusses possibilities of democratic associative practices in emergency by looking at the notion of resistance that Michel Foucault links with power. This route remains unexplored in the literature on the concept of the exception.

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Peter Standbrink

This article investigates civic-political and cognitive participation as they play out in democratic theory. Its core purpose is to develop a conceptual-normative critique of the presupposition in liberal democratic theory that these logics are mutually reinforcing and complementary. This misunderstanding of a theoretical ambivalence contributes to inhibiting constructive assessment of epistocratic*technocratic frameworks of democratic interpretation and theory. I demonstrate that these logics circulate contrasting views of democratic power and legitimacy and should be disentangled to make sense of liberal democratic theoretical and political spaces. This critique is then fed into a political-epistemological interrogation of post-truth and alt-facts rhetorical registers in contemporary liberal democratic life, concluding that neither logic of participation can harbor this unanticipated and fundamentally nonaligned way of doing liberal democratic democracy.

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The Making of a Fundamental Value

A History of the Concept of Separation of Church and State in the Netherlands

Mart Rutjes

Separation of church and state is one of the key concepts in contemporary debates in increasingly secular democracies like the Netherlands. It is not only used to describe the legal and political arrangements between the state and religious organizations, but is also part of a larger discursive struggle over national identity and the meaning of citizenship. This article traces the history of the concept of separation of church and state in the Netherlands since the eighteenth century. First, it shows how the concept has always been a contested one. Second, it argues that the current framing of separation of church and state as a fundamental value of Dutch society is relatively recent and is connected to growing secularism and the position of Islam in Dutch society.

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Tetsuki Tamura and Yasuko H. Kobayashi

This article attempts to view the idea of a “crisis of democracy” through a lens of individualization of the society. As the consequence of the impact of the individualization on existing liberal democracy, new forms of niggling democracy have been emerging. This article maps varieties of such emerging democracies in contemporary Japanese society.

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A comforting notion in much recent scholarly work on political regimes is that what, broadly, has come to be termed liberal democracy reflects the normative ‘telos’ of the modern world’s developmental trajectory. Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man stands as an almost iconic, if perhaps somewhat coarsely crafted, statement of this view. Przeworski, Alvarez, Cheibub and Limongi have, in Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990, presented a nuanced, empirically well grounded case for the general relative superiority of liberal democracy as a political framework for richer economies, and as a framework that societies will tend to adopt, with fewer dangers of regression, as they become wealthier. Even the economies of poorer countries—contrary to some earlier views—appear to grow and prosper no better under authoritarian regimes than they do under liberal democratic dispensations, not least with regard to the efficiency of resource allocation. Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom bears eloquent testimony to the wider social, political and ethical virtues of liberal democracy. After all, liberal democracies promise greater individual freedoms, better protection of rights, and better mechanisms for public policy formation and assessment than do authoritarian or ‘totalitarian’ forms of state. They also do not go to war against one another.