Political Theory and Democratic Failures
Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Political Theory
Democracy has been defended as the best possible form of government in order to secure political equality, protect people’s rights and freedoms, and respect their agency. In many regions of the world, however, the political reality tells a different story, which reminds us of how precarious those democratic ideals are. Widespread corruption, authoritarian drifts, mounting populism, and the pressure from private interests challenge the tenability of the democratic order. Some such challenges may well just be conjunctural and due to the “tear and wear” of any regime. But in other cases, problems are emerging that are symptomatic of more general failures that question the normative hold the democratic ideal. Particularly challenging in this sense are processes of democratic backsliding through institutional reforms that shrink civil liberties, remove horizontal checks of the executives, or promote an anti-pluralist political agenda.
While empirical social science has documented these corrosive dynamics well, a broader research agenda is emerging in the field of political theory. This agenda motivates political theorists to explore the analytical and normative significance of democratic failures and possible avenues of institutional innovation that may remedy them. To what extent do democratic failures challenge the very defining features of democracy and its foundational values? How should the ideal and the practice of democracy be revised to address those failures?
We invite panels discussing a number of themes, including, but not limited to:
• Populism and the polarisation of the electorate
• The influence of private capital on public institutions
• The fragility of the party system and participation deficit
• The role of expertise and the threat of technocracy
• The erosion of trust and civic friendship
• Growing inequalities and the failure of social integration
We welcome proposals from all traditions and subfields of political theory. We aim to facilitate engagement across sub-disciplinary boundaries and to support innovative research within particular traditions or on particular problems. To promote engagement across different traditions, we welcome panel proposals that address problems, themes and concepts from multiple perspectives. To promote specialized work on particular topics, we welcome panel proposals that either address the complexities and diversity of particular traditions in political theory, or focus on particular problems or issues from within the confines of one particular tradition, such as the analytical tradition.
Following the suggestions of the members of the ECPR Political Theory Specialist Group, at this stage we propose to convene panels on the topics listed below.
1) Democratic Regression(s): Normative Approaches.
Chair: Andrei Poama (University of Leiden). E-mail: email@example.com. Other proposed participants: Jan Pieter Beetz (Utrecht University); Anthoula Malkopoulou (Lund University); Markus Patberg (LSE); Antoinette Scherz (University of Graz); Tom Theuns (Leiden University).
2) Democratic Backsliding: Ethics, Politics and Law.
Chair: Attila Mráz (Sciences Po Paris, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Other proposed participants: Petra Gümplová (University of Jena); Fabio Wolkenstein (University of Vienna).
3) Information, Fake News and the Epistemic Quality of Democracy.
Chair: Elisa Piras (University of Sant’Anna, Pisa). E-mail email@example.com. Other proposed participants: Joshua Habgood-Coote (University of Leeds); Merten Reglitz (University of Birmingham).
4) Private Action for the Public Good: Democratic Implications.
Chair: Ted Lechterman (University of Oxford). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Other proposed participants: Matthieu Debief (University of Geneva), Amy Schiller (Dartmouth College).
5) Populism and Mistrust: An Unbreakable Binomial?
Chair: Dario Mazzola (University of Bergen). E-mail: email@example.com. Other proposed participants: Mark Devenney (CAPPE, University of Brighton), Emilia Palonen (HEPP, University of Helsinki).
6) Democracy, Citizenship and Migration Policy.
Chairs: Esma Baycan Herzog (University of Geneva) François Boucher (KU Leuven) and Matteo Gianni (University of Geneva). E-mail: Esma.Baycan@unige.ch. Other proposed participants: Rainer Bauböck (EUI), Eszter Kollar (KU Leuven); Tiziana Torresi (University of Adelaide); Annamari Vitikainen (Arctic University of Norway-UIT).
Additional proposals for panels and papers are invited.
Maria Paola Ferretti (firstname.lastname@example.org) is interim professor (Vetretungsprofessorin) in Political Philosophy and Theory at the Goethe University of Frankfurt on Main. Her research interests include contemporary liberalism, the ethics of public policy, democratic participation and corruption. She has published in journals such as Politics, Philosophy and Economics, the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Social Philosophy and Policy. She is the author of "The Public Perspective, Public Justification and the Ethics of Belief" (Rowman and Littlefield 2019) and co-author "Political Corruption the Internal Enemy of Public Institutions" (OUP 2021)She is currently Chair of the ECPR Political Theory Standing Group.
Emanuela Ceva (email@example.com) is Full Professor of Political Theory at the University of Geneva. She has held visiting positions at Oxford, St. Andrews, Montréal, Harvard, Leuven. She works on the normative theory of institutions, with special reference to issues of corruption and trust. Recent articles have appeared in the Journal of Political Philosophy, American Journal of Political Science, and Journal of Applied Philosophy. She is the co-author of "Is whistleblowing a duty?" (Polity 2018) and "Political Corruption the Internal Enemy of Public Institutions" (OUP 2021). She is member of the steering committee of the ECPR Political Theory Standing Group