This 16th issue of Democratic Theory features three articles, a trialogue (our first), two review essays, and two book reviews.
Taina Meriluoto starts us off with a focus “on struggles concerning the definition of expertise” to identify a “threefold character of politicization as a practice within participatory innovations.” These are (1) “illuminating the boundaries that define the actors’ possibilities”; (2) “making a connection between these boundaries and specific value bases”; and (3) “imagining an alternative normative basis for participation.”
Tom Theuns follows with an argument against both the functional demos and global demos views of the boundary problem. The aim in this undertaking is to “take the sting out of the boundary problem” by rearticulating it in the light of Theuns's “pluralist democracy” conception, which “recognizes democratic procedures to be historically grounded, non-ideal, and problem-oriented.”
From here, we move to Marcin Kaim's proposal for a third category of political participation. Traditionally, as Kaim explains, the political action landscape is defined as a duality between the “conventional” (e.g., voting) and “unconventional” (e.g., rejecting the legitimacy of the vote). What this duality misses, however, are those “alternative” forms of political action that blur the line between the conventional and unconventional (e.g., information activism).
The trialogue happens between Sue Donaldson, Janneke Vink, and Jean-Paul Gagnon. They discuss the problem of anthropocentric democratic theory and the preconditions needed to realize an interspecies democracy. Donaldson proposes the involvement of nonhuman animals in political institutions, Vink argues for changes to law, and Gagnon advises a personal change to dietary choices (veganism) and ethical orientations (do no harm).
With reference to the review essays, Gergana Dimova critiques John Keane's New Despotism (Harvard, 2020) to highlight how “grumblers” in society are not necessarily harbingers of democracy; Spencer McKay reads David Altman's Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy (Cambridge, 2018), Joshua Dyck and Edward Lascher's Initiatives without Engagement (Michigan, 2019), Saskia Hollander's The Politics of Referendum Use in European Democracies (Palgrave, 2019), and John Matsusaka's Let the People Rule (Princeton, 2020) to demonstrate how empirical research can break new ground for theorists of democracy; Marie Paxton reviews George Bateman's The Transformative Potential of Participatory Budgeting (Routledge, 2019); and Uğur Aytaç reviews Garett Jones's 10 percent Less Democracy (Stanford, 2020).