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ECPR

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Understanding Democracy Starting from its Practices

Civil Society
Democracy
Political Participation
Political Parties
Political Theory
Social Movements
Political Activism
Activism
Andrea Felicetti
Scuola Normale Superiore
Andrea Felicetti
Scuola Normale Superiore

Abstract

Democracy is an essentially contested concept. Besides disputes over the different meanings democracy can take there are also are many ways of practicing democracy. However, in discussing democracy, conceptual contestation has received significantly more attention than difference in practices. I try to redress this problem by engaging with an unduly neglected question: What does the difference in democratic practices tell us about democracy? Taking diversity of practices as the starting point to think about democracy allows us to refrain from seeking some fixed core to democracy (such as elections, deliberation or participation) around which a political system should be organized. Rather, I argue, democracy is an open-ended project whose strength consists in the ability to accommodate contestation around its multiple meanings and practices. This perspective sheds new light on the way we think about democratic systems and the role of different political actors, including political parties.