Editorial: in Democratic Theory

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial


This thirteenth issue of the journal (Volume 7, Issue 1, July 2020) begins with Roberto Frega's (CNRS) article “Against Analogy: Why Analogical Arguments in Support of Workplace Democracy Must Necessarily Fail”. Frega invites democratic and political theorists committed to the democratization of the workplace to ground themselves in specifics. Instead of working through metaphor and analogy which risks treating workplaces or firms as more or less the same, Frega argues we should first take issue with the question of which workplace or firm and thereafter work through the problem of how it can democratize. Analogies, Frega convincingly shows, simply do not have this productive capacity.

An article by Alexander Weiss (Helmut-Schmidt and Weizenbaum Institute) offers a framework for building a comparative democratic theory. Weiss's article, “Comparative Democratic Theory”, urges the reader to contribute to the globalization of democracy—arguably its third modern transformation (the first was representation, the second universalization [in terms of franchise]). This intellectual movement interferes with current research in at least two important ways: it (1) redescribes democracy over-and-again which means measurement models must continue adjusting if they wish to maintain a fine empirical capture of democracy in their polity or polities of concern; and (2) it continuously throws up “non-Western” normative concerns that, like Confucianism, deserve the same assiduous attention as, say, Rawls’ search for justice, Habermasian deliberation, or Hegelian dialectics in relation to x type or types of democracy.

The last research article is by Costas Panayotakis (CUNY/City Tech). “Neoliberalism, the Left and the Rise of the Far Right: On the Ideological Implications of Capitalism's Subordination to Democracy” demonstrates how “major parties of the left … can unwittingly become complicit in the perpetuation and intensification” (p. 61) of neoliberal capitalism's attack on political and liberal democracy and worker's rights. The first trap for leftist parties is drifting to the right. The second is making promises to electors that the democratic system in play cannot meet. Panayotakis reveals how both traps are vote-chasing gambles that may, in the near term, pay-off for the parties that use them but are ones that ultimately come back to hurt them and the ideals they champion with interest.

Following these research articles are two critical commentaries. The first is by Viviana Asara (Vienna) who discusses the limits of liberal democracy. Specifically, in “The Limits of Liberal Democracy: Prospects for Democratizing Democracy”, Asara argues for the democratization of daily or habitual economic, reproductive, and environmental experiences in workplaces and state institutions/policies. The second is by William Edmundson (Georgia State) who explores the difficult relationship between salvation religions and liberal democracies. In “Tolerating the Conditionally Tolerant: The Uneasy Case of Salvation Religions”, Edmundson works through Rawls, Rousseau and contemporary events to end with the call that religious schools should teach apostasy from the outset of a person's religious education—a critical mind and tolerating the beliefs of others will not send you to hell.

These critical commentaries are followed by an interview of Samuel Moyn (Yale) by Jean-Paul Gagnon (Canberra). Moyn, in “Globalizing the Intellectual History of Democracy”, explores the promises and pitfalls of treating democracy's intellectual history as a planetary affair. “[W]hat has long been considered the acceptable fund of ideas has not served the recent past well”, Moyn explains, “so an expansion of the scope of [democracy's] intellectual history” is necessary (p. 100). The main issue, pressing forward, is the debate over which intellectual traditions matter most (i.e. should be privileged and why) and for which polities.

This thirteenth issue of Democratic Theory closes with Christian Ewert's (Zurich) review of Centripetal Democracy: Democratic Legitimacy and Political Identity in Belgium, Switzerland and the European Union (Oxford, 2017), written by Joseph Lacey (University College Dublin).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-6
Number of pages2
JournalDemocratic Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


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