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2022 | Book

Democratic Institutions and Practices

A Debate on Governments, Parties, Theories and Movements in Today’s World

Editors: Juan José Gómez Gutiérrez, José Abdelnour-Nocera, Esteban Anchústegui Igartua

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

Book Series : Contributions to Political Science


About this book

This book explores key contemporary issues of democracy in our globalized and highly technologized world. Written from an interdisciplinary perspective, with contributions including the fields of philosophy, political science, media studies, linguistics, and aesthetics, it reflects on the characteristics of the democratic state and democratic social practices.

The book features contributions on topics such as the status of political parties, the separation of powers and the rule of law, bureaucracy and meritocracy, equality, forms of democratic participation and governance, comparisons between historical and contemporary democratic practices, individual rights, propaganda, political engagement, and consent. Further, it discusses how global information flows and new technologies affect democratic processes, including topics such as cyber-activism and open-source software as a means of empowerment to ethnocentric and class-centric technological design, globalization and media neutrality, and the mechanization of public administration. Overall, the book demonstrates how historical, philosophical, technical, and institutional issues relate to contemporary democracy. It will appeal to political theorists, social scientists and everybody interested in contemporary democracy.

Table of Contents

Does the Constitutional-Pluralist Regime Have a Future?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the reappearance of a classical defiance of democracy and politics: technocracy, the government of experts, scientists and technicians as an idealistic way of dealing with current challenges. The response to the health crisis and renewed proposals for a technocratic form of global governance are currently one of the major problems for democratic regimes. However, the “technocratic danger” is not the greatest problem for constitutional-pluralist regimes. Technocracy is a danger. But more important is the problema of the intrinsic contradiction of these regimes in relation with their ideals. Contemporary societies are based on the principles of Equality, Freedom and Welfare, but each of them has its own internal dynamics and developed to their fullest extent they are forces that erode the foundations of such regimes. Classical sociology, especially Alexis de Tocqueville, provides us with the right tools to meet this enormous challenge.
Oscar Eliá Mañú
A Commitment to the Principles of Judicial Ethics Against the Danger of Judicial Politicization to the Democracies in the European Union
The relationship between judicial power and democracy is so tight that judicial power can be considered an essential element in democracy. In this article, we explore the dangers that threaten modern democracies when the judicial power is politicized and acts in party interests, which is happening now in some of the Member States of the European Union and puts the separation of powers into question that is characteristic of the Rule of Law. We analyze how a commitment to the principles of judicial ethics could restore citizens’ faith in the Rule of Law and act against the politicization of the judicial power in the European Union. The premise that a judge should not be an instrument of political power is of supranational importance.
Cristina Hermida del Llano
Democracy of People: Beyond the Citizen and the Individual
To speak of the democratic state as the space for citizen participation in political life, it is an intellectual convention. Democracy is a form of government where individuals have the right to present their ideas in public and organise themselves, often by joining political parties. The semantic diversity employed to define those actors of democracy (individual, citizen, even, party member…) designates concrete ways in which people express themselves in the social realm. However, they may render invisible the fundamental concept that defines the human being: the person. Taking as starting point that human being is essentially a person, I contend that the specific conceptual reduction of the person to the individual-citizen dialectic in political-social life is at the basis of one of the fundamental deficits of democratic states, for it may constrain political actors to a specific sphere of their existence. This could lead to political disaffection and pervert the fundamental ethical and legal mechanisms of democracy itself, like the protection of fundamental human rights, which belong to the person as such, beyond his or her individual or civic status.
Manuel Lázaro Pulido
On Contemporary Democratism: The Twilight of Political Virtue and Its Paradoxes
The purpose of this work is to show how until the Modern Age, democracy has not been considered as the best form of government, both because of the accidental nature of all the political systems and for pragmatic reasons. Democracy’s leading role has had to await the emergence of political individualism and the modern notion of subjective will, in parallel with the erosion of the idea of common good and of its corresponding rationality. In such conditions, democracy is configured following two paradigmatic models: the liberal and the republican, with their correlative and problematic model of civic virtue. These models operated as technical mechanisms for guaranteeing social unity until their succession by post-modernism, whose notion of absolute subjectivity has removed any relational limit and with it all possibility of political virtue.
Juan Carlos Utrera García
Democratic Representation and the Nature of Political Parties
The term “representation” is polysemic, meaning, among other things, reproduction, delegation or mandate. However, representation may also imply a betrayal of the reproduced or delegated reality. It seems to me that, today, political representation suggests distance and otherness, and not similarity, especially when transparency and public control of the citizens’ representatives and State institutions are constantly eroded. In this chapter, I would argue that there is a crisis of legitimacy of the means of political representation in Western democracies, resulting from the decline of parliamentarism and the political parties. These should ensure the democratic functioning of the State between elections. However, voters have now scarce control on their representatives, and candidates are more likely to be designated by the parties’ bureaucracies than by the citizens themselves. Political parties, in sum, look today like embedded in the State apparatus rather than in civil society, the latter being progressively supplanted by its institutional form, thus falling into a vicious circle of delegitimisation.
Esteban Anchústegui Igartua
Democracy, Representation and Critical Aesthetics
This chapter begins with an examination of contemporary democratic legitimacy. I compare three interrelated arguments: Habermas’ conception of rationality as the foundation of the democratic system; Hegel’s identification of reason with history; and its development in the conception of rationality as a praxis of symbolisation produced by Marx and Gramsci. I conclude with an aesthetical analysis of the relationship between rationality, history and symbolisation; that is, considering the rhetorical mechanisms that ensure consent and hence the stability of political systems and their specific democratic terms.
Juan José Gómez Gutiérrez
Communism or Freedom: Right-Wing Populist Discourse and the False Disjunctives
Populism made a strong comeback in the early 2000s with the victory of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (2002) and kept spreading across almost all of Latin America through many left-wing governments in the region. However, at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century, right-wing conceptions became the main outlet for this type of discourse. In this chapter, we will study some characteristics of the right-wing populist discourse, focusing on the false disjunctive of communism or freedom from a semantic-pragmatic approach.
Pedro Fernández Riquelme
Meritocracy: The Keyword of Market Populism
This chapter examines the rise of meritocratic ideology in Europe and how it relates to the current crisis of egalitarian and redistributive public policies and neoliberal hegemony. I take meritocracy as a key concept to understand, not only neoliberalism, but also neopopulism, in so far that both replace class conflict and objective social analysis of inequalities by moralistic criticism of politics and the discursive production of non-productive individuals meriting help. In this sense, I will contend that “meritocracy” is closely related to the legitimisation of inequality and the crisis of the welfare State in our contemporary post-democracies. That is: a historical phase where the democratic systems, and the social and political rights that they guarantee, are waning due to the liquefaction of organised collective subjects such as mass parties and trade unions. I will conclude showing how neoliberalism and neopopulism are often found combined in the ideologies of “market populism” and “corporate populism”.
Salvatore Cingari
Controlling the Desire for Control: Machines, Institutions and Democracy
The contemporary world, with its complexity and development, forces us to greater levels of trust—trust in machines, algorithms, experts, institutions, elites, intermediaries, representatives, etc. In spite of that, the confidence is often unwarranted, and it can be shattered to the extent that it triggers movement in the opposite direction. This leads to a generic wish for disintermediation: the desire to regain control, verify information for ourselves, be correctly represented, demand that there are always people involved in automatic decision-making processes, recover self-determination or manage delegation more carefully.
Daniel Innerarity
Random Recruitment, Civil Society, and the State
This chapter explores how a particular political procedure, the random recruitment of citizens for public office, relates to, and operates within, two important arenas of political and social activity: civil society and the state. It is based on three case studies. (1) The seditious libel controversy in eighteenth-century Britain. (2) The custodians of the lottery bags in fourteenth-century Florence. (3) Key aspects of ancient Athenian democracy. To begin with, I introduce the subject of the random process in its social setting by looking at lottery use in the distribution of commonly held resources. Because civil society and the state are both contested concepts, this is then followed by a discussion in which I formulate an analytical framework for the case studies. This includes two more categories: political society and the citizens. My overall conclusion is that random recruitment has been used, and can be used, to establish direct working links between the citizenry and the state. These can operate in a manner that is free from the direct influence of civil society and political society groupings.
Oliver Dowlen
Visions and Forms of Democratic Participation in Italian Universities after 1968
The essay focuses on the ideological aspects and organizational dynamics underlying the 1968 protests in Italian universities. It analyzes the inter-generational confrontation within the parties and in the wider public sphere in order to explain the new assembly-based organization in the Italian university. Young people in many countries demanded new spaces for a more direct political action; in Italy this would foster a change in the university representatives and parliamentary bodies which had so far mediated student participation. The UNURI (Italian University’s National Representative Union), founded in 1948, would suffer a crisis in 1968 precisely on the thrust of requests from youth initiatives increasingly freed from party control. Countering the representative logic of UNURI, the student movement proclaimed a democracy based on direct assembly. The university thus became a place to think and implement new democratic practices, tested in the context of academic institutions unable to update their representative role and meet the strong demand for student participation.
Mauro Antonio Buscemi
The Ethics and Politics of Design for the Common Good: A Lesson from Alibaug
In this chapter, I argue for a socio-technical approach to technology design for the common good that addresses its ethical and political aspects. The background is that the life of marginalized people in contemporary society is challenging and uncertain. The marginalized can face health and cognitive issues as well as a lack of stability in social structures such as family, work and social inclusion. In this context, certain democratic values embedded in technology design can conceal political asymmetries and fail to deliver ethical value exchange, where value extraction is not dominated by one party but equally shared across all stakeholders. I discuss two socio-technical perspectives called human-work interaction design (HWID) and Technological Frames (TF) to expose and tackle the challenges of designing technology for the common good. I introduce and evaluate an ongoing case of a digital service delivered through an app to support a fishing community in Alibaug, India. The evaluation of the socio-technical infrastructure surrounding this app is done in two parts: firstly, I use HWID to highlight inwardly and outwardly socio-technical, ethical and power relations between human work and interaction design; secondly, an argument for the use of the concept of TF to understand the constructionist and semiotic power dynamics of different groups in participatory technology design is presented. It is shown how dominant groups’ frames can construct meanings of design decisions in terms of whether they are appropriate or not. The political leverage of the scripts embedded in artefacts used in the process of design is also explained from a semiotic perspective. I conclude by highlighting the value of an ethical and political socio-technical framework for technology design for the common good with people at the margins.
José Abdelnour-Nocera
Democratic Practice in the Era of Platforms: From Clicktivism to Open-Source Intelligence
Clicktivism is the practice of supporting a cause through the internet employing, for example, online petitions made available on crowdsourcing platforms. It has been criticised for the low level of commitment demanded from clicktivists. Platforms themselves are the centre of controversy because of their business model—based on monetizing users’ data—and their role in generating ideological bubbles and disseminating disinformation. However, studies suggest that people who participate in online politics also do so in their offline lives, and platforms enable new forms of activism and humanitarianism. This article focusses on the new technopolitic practices supported by digital platforms, access to open data, and the employment of open-source intelligence. The 2010s are a turning point for technopolitics: they mark the expansion of the platforms for political engagement, the start of the territorialisation of the internet, and the emergence of new democratic practices to campaign, generate evidence, and sustain alternative stories for humanitarianism and activism. This study identifies three main challenges for these democratic practices: namely, the proliferation of disinformation and hate speech, the lack of data literacy, and the monopolistic practices of big tech companies.
Miren Gutiérrez
A Media Citizenry and Communication Policies: The Challenges of Information Democracy
As shown by public opinion studies since the 1930s, modern public information and communication are destined to play an essential role in the shaping of a common space for political deliberation and representation. Since then it has been generally recognised that without information or access to the communication space, freedom of expression and other social rights tend to be violated. Indeed, the current quality of the democratic life of a society can be measured in terms of the vitality and diversity of its information system, even more so with the spread of what some authors call “media democracy”. The desire to become familiar with the conditions and parameters of the democratic organisation of mediation in theory and, above all, in empirical analysis, has been widely cultivated. To the point that political communication can be regarded as one of the most popular disciplines and objects of study in communicology research. As could not be otherwise, it has also been the persistent target of scathing criticism and academic debate, above all in relation to normative problems deriving from the need for social regulation and to the existing relationships of mutual dependence, directly or indirectly, between the social system and the public communication system. The ample scientific production in this respect has resulted in the observation of the different realities of political communication in terms of the effects, negative consequences and institutional dimensions of the phenomenology of mediatised democratic culture. While it has sidelined significant aspects such as emotions, imaginaries and representations of public culture and, for that matter, participation that facilitates or restricts the mediations of the cultural industries. In the digital age, this neglect of the subjective, experiential and reconstructionist aspects of mediation is currently highlighting the need for another approach. One that critically and specifically considers the aspects of reception, consumption and political production of the mediatised social realm and attempts to identify, in the broadest cultural sense of the word, the structural mutations that the communication industries promote in organisational models and contemporary forms of collective action, which, among other processes, make it easier to embark on new processes of participation.
Francisco Sierra Caballero
Democratic Institutions and Practices
Juan José Gómez Gutiérrez
José Abdelnour-Nocera
Esteban Anchústegui Igartua
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