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Political Theory

H12(a) - Democratic Theory I

Date: Jun 5 | Time: 02:00pm to 03:30pm | Location: ESB 1012

Chair/Président/Présidente : Victor Muniz Fraticelli (McGill University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Victor Muniz Fraticelli (McGill University)

Who Constitutes a Legitimate Demos? Refugees, Migrants, and the Indigenous Populations: Afsoun Afsahi (University of Amsterdam)
Abstract: Who has the legitimacy to affect decisions? Who should have a hand in making the laws and policies that can affect others? Who constitutes the demos in a democracy? In this paper, I will look at the boundary problem and the problem of constituting a demos and demonstrate that we can best understand and make sense of claims made by migrants and refugees—and understand the complexity of the boundary/demos problems— by considering the claims made by indigenous populations concurrently. I argue that the all-affected principle has to be re-conceptualized to account for the differences in the historical and current social position of those who are or who should be making legitimacy claims. I posit a new, and more robust, all-affected principle which would afford a better claim to legitimacy to those most deeply affected by both the current decision in question as well as historical practices leading up to the decision. In particular, I identify three sets of exclusions, groups, and claims that are driving this reformulation and should be prioritized: first, cases of historical injustice such as the cases of Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States as well as African Americans in the United States; second, cases of present processes of minoritization: such as the case of cultural, ethnic, religious minorities that are, in one way or another, oppressed in society; and third, cases of state establishment of boundaries and “worthy” citizenship: such as refugees and immigrants making claims for relocation and asylum.

C.B. Macpherson's Encounters with the Real Worlds of Democracy, 1965-1972: Ian McKay (McMaster University)
Abstract: C.B. Macpherson’s Encounters with the Real Worlds of Democracy, 1965-1972 Early in 1965, political scientist C.B. Macpherson gave six half-hour radio broadcasts over the CBC, as part of the Massey Lectures established four years earlier. “There is a good deal of muddle about democracy,” he declared in his opening—hardly welcome words for those who believed strongly that ‘Western democracies’ were unified in their resistance to the dictators of the ‘Communist Bloc’ and the unstable decolonizing states of the Global South. For Macpherson, on the other hand, both Communists and Third World revolutionaries could also honestly claim to be “democrats,” because they shared with Westerners an ultimate goal: the provision of the “condition for the full and free development of the essential human capacities of all the members of the society.” If they—i.e., the frequently demonized Communists and Third World revolutionaries—had something to learn from us (the model of our “highly valued” system combining a “large measure of individual liberty with a fair approximation to majority rule”), the reverse was also the case: “people in the West” were likely to demand an “end to the transfer of powers,” that conscription of time, energy and value from the many by a privileged few. Because Macpherson’s historicization of democracy proved controversial. Student revolutionaries denounced his vagueness, contemporary political theorists his alleged pandering to totalitarianism. This paper will attempt an historical exploration of this debate. Does Macphersonian democracy merit a new hearing in a neo-liberal age?


Can Deliberative Systems Respond to Systemic Oppression?: Anna Drake (University of Waterloo)
Abstract: A deliberative systems approach seeks to make deliberative democracy more feasible—and normatively more appealing—by evaluating the larger political system. As a macro view of deliberation, it shifts the burden away from specific instances of deliberation and formal (sometimes rigid) accounts of deliberative criteria to approach deliberation—broadly conceived—through both deliberative and more explicitly democratic (and not always deliberative) components. As we develop our understanding of the systems’ connections it is important to revisit deliberative democracy’s early emphasis on the importance of deliberation between equals. Whereas initially deliberative democrats aimed to achieve deliberative equality via deliberative criteria and institutional guidelines controlling deliberative exchanges, the systems approach relies on evaluating the “big picture” that emerges after engaging traditionally deliberative and decision-making components alongside messier democratic and sometimes “unreasonable” components. In this paper I examine challenges inherent in the systems’ focus on broad inclusion and argue the inclusion framework has significant limitations. Deliberative systems unfold against a backdrop of systemic inequalities and oppression. As a result, deeply-entrenched power inequalities devalue some components’ contributions, particularly when it comes to marginalized groups’ participation. This undermines the health of deliberative systems and, notably, does so while deliberative systems proponents praise the system for its increased ability to take contestation seriously. I examine these contradictions with a particular focus on deliberative understandings of the roles of persuasion, coercion, and reasonableness, all of which work to reinforce the inclusion framework that, counterproductively, undermines substantive deliberation between equals.

Rethinking Inclusion: The Problem of Norm-Conditional Political Practices and Discourses: Edana Beauvais (McGill University)
Abstract: Democracy begins with inclusion (Warren 2017). Political systems are democratic to the extent that people are included in the social and political practices – such as talking, voting, joining, resisting, and so on – that allow them to form judgments and influence collective decisions about issues that affect them (Beauvais 2018; Fung 2013; Goodin 2007; Young 2000). However, the relationship between political inclusion and democratic governance – and ultimately, between inclusion and justice – is undermined when “inclusion” is conditional on participating in a normative framework (space of shared intentionality) that is harmful to agents’ self- and collective identities or reconstitutes asymmetrical capacities for determining the conditions of action. This problem is most starkly revealed in colonial contexts. In this paper, I draw on Pierre Bourdieu, Taiaiake Alfred, Glen Coulthard, and other Indigenous theorists to show how efforts to deepen the inclusion of colonised Indigenous peoples in settler’s social and political practices can function to reinforce relations of oppression and domination. The solution to norm-conditional inclusion and the reconstitution of settlers’ spaces of mutual intelligibility is Indigenous resurgence (Alfred 2005). Indigenous resurgence refers to a kind of principled, political self-exclusion from norm-conditional settler practices that reconstitute settlers’ shared intentionality. Indigenous resurgence refers to participating in distinctly Indigenous practices oriented toward (re-)constituting Indigenous spaces of shared intentionality. I conclude by drawing some lessons from Indigenous political theory and practice and discuss how taking Indigenous theory seriously helps “decolonize critical theory” (Allen 2016).