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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Democracy, Truthfulness and the Crisis of Representation: Richard Bellamy and Sandra Kröger

Political Theory
Richard Bellamy
University College London
Richard Bellamy
University College London
Sandra Kröger
University of Exeter

Many would agree that lying undermines democracy. Yet, a long tradition of political thought contends that lying may not only be permissible sometimes, but also that the operation of representative democracy encourages politicians to lie. We disagree. Nevertheless, we shall argue that specific aspects of the crisis of representation currently confronting liberal democracies do promote a disregard for truth and truthfulness associated with bullshit and post-truth. We begin by showing how lying, bullshit and post-truth all involve a disregard for truthfulness in violating the two virtues of truth: accuracy (the information is false or misleading) and sincerity (the liar is dishonest and deceitful). We argue that under favourable circumstances two features of representative democracy encourage politicians to be truthful, namely competition for the people’s vote and accountability. However, certain features of the crisis of representation alter the ways these core components of representative democracy operate so as to foster a disregard for truthfulness typical of bullshit and post-truth, even if straightforward lying may be rarer. We illustrate our argument with evidence from Brexit politics.
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