Saturday, November 23, 2013

New Book: "Democracy and Media Decadence"

Democracy and Media Decadence

by John Keane

(Cambridge University Press, 2013)


We live in a revolutionary age of communicative abundance in which many media innovations - from satellite broadcasting to smart glasses and electronic books - spawn great fascination mixed with excitement. In the field of politics, hopeful talk of digital democracy, cybercitizens and e-government has been flourishing. This book admits the many thrilling ways that communicative abundance is fundamentally altering the contours of our lives and of our politics, often for the better. But it asks whether too little attention has been paid to the troubling counter-trends, the decadent media developments that encourage public silence and concentrations of unlimited power, so weakening the spirit and substance of democracy. Exploring examples of clever government surveillance, market censorship, spin tactics and back-channel public relations, John Keane seeks to understand and explain these trends, and how best to deal with them. Tackling some tough but big and fateful questions, Keane argues that 'media decadence' is deeply harmful for public life.


1. Communicative Abundance [excerpt]
2. Monitory Democracy
3. Media Decadence
4. Democracy's Opponents
5. Why Freedom of Public Communication?

John Keane is Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB). He is the author of "Global Civil Society?" (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and "The Life and Death of Democracy" (Simon & Schuster, 2009).

See also some of John Keane's papers:
* "Monitory Democracy and Media-Saturated Societies" [pdf]
* "Media Decadence and Democracy"
* "Democracy in the Age of Google, Facebook, and WikiLeaks" [pdf]
* "Eleven Theses on Communicative Abundance

See also Ramon A. Feenstra's "Democracy in the Age of New Media Galaxy" [pdf]

Friday, November 15, 2013

Axel Honneth on "The Normativity of Ethical Life" (video)

On September 20, 2013, Professor Axel Honneth gave a lecture at The Stony Brook University. The lecture was part of a symposium on Axel Honneth's political philosophy.

Honneth's lecture is now available on YouTube (with an introduction by Eduardo Mendieta):

"The Normativity of Ethical Life

An English translation of Honneth's most recent book "Das Recht der Freiheit" is coming out on Polity Press in December, titled "Freedom's Right: The Social Foundations of Democratic Life".

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

David Ingram on Habermas and Kelsen

New paper by David Ingram:

"Reconciling Positivism and Realism: Kelsen and Habermas on Democracy and Human Rights" [pdf]

David Ingram is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University, Chicago. He is the author of "Habermas: Introduction and Analysis" (Cornell University Press, 2010). 

"Compromising on Justice" - Four Papers

"Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy" volume 16, issue 4 (September 2013), is a special issue on "Compromising on Justice".

Here are the introduction and four of the articles:

* "Introduction: Compromising on Justice" [pdf]
by Fabian Wendt

* "Sustaining Democracy: Folk Epistemology and Social Conflict" [pdf] by Robert B. Talisse

"When political philosophers ask whether there is a philosophical justification for democracy, they are most frequently concerned with one of two queries. The first has to do with the relative merits of democracy as compared with other regimes. The second query has to do with the moral bindingness of democratic outcomes. But there is a third query we may be engaging when we are looking for a philosophical justification of democracy: what reason can be given to democratic citizens to pursue democratic means of social change when they are confronted with a democratic result that seems to them seriously objectionable or morally intolerable? In this paper I develop an epistemological response to the third query. The thesis is that we have sufficient epistemological reasons to be democrats. The epistemological norms that we take ourselves to be governed by can be satisfied only under certain social conditions, and these social conditions are best secured under democracy."

* "Toleration Out of Respect?"
by Sune Lægaard

"Under conditions of pluralism different cultures, interests or values can come into conflict, which raises the problem of how to secure peaceful co-existence. The idea of toleration historically emerged as an answer to this problem. Recently Rainer Forst has argued that toleration should not just be based on a modus vivendi designed to secure peaceful co-existence, but should be based on moral reasons. Forst therefore advances what he calls the ‘respect conception’ of toleration as an in itself morally desirable type of relationship, which is furthermore the only conception of toleration that avoids various so-called ‘paradoxes of toleration’. The paper first examines whether Forst’s respect conception can be applied descriptively to distinguish between actual patterns of behaviour and classify different acts of toleration. Then the focus is shifted to toleration out of respect as a normative prescription, which Forst presents as a requirement of justice. At both levels, it is argued that Forst’s respect conception is problematic since it presupposes that answers to very substantial normative questions, which are precisely what people tend to disagree on under conditions of pluralism, are already at hand. The respect conception therefore seems to be at best a theoretical idea belonging in ideal-theory, not a useful practical solution to actual conflicts under conditions of pluralism."

* "Consensus, Compromise, Justice and Legitimacy"
by Enzo Rossi

"Could the notion of compromise help us overcoming – or at least negotiating – the frequent tension, in normative political theory, between the realistic desideratum of peaceful coexistence and the idealistic desideratum of justice? That is to say, an analysis of compromise may help us move beyond the contrast between two widespread contrasting attitudes in contemporary political philosophy: ‘fiat iustitia, pereat mundus’, on the one side, and ‘salus populi suprema lex’, on the other side. More specifically, compromise may provide the backbone of a conception of legitimacy that mediates between idealistic (or moralistic) and realistic (or pragmatic) desiderata of political theory, i.e. between the aspiration to peace and the aspiration to justice. In other words, this paper considers whether an account of compromise could feature in a viable realistic conception of political legitimacy, in much the same way in which consensus features in more idealistic conceptions of legitimacy (a move that may be attributed to some realist theorists, especially Bernard Williams). My conclusions, however, are largely sceptical: I argue that grounding legitimacy in any kind of normatively salient agreement does require the trappings of idealistic political philosophy, for better or – in my view – worse."

* "Peace Beyond Compromise"
by Fabian Wendt

"Our societies are marked not only by disagreements on the good life, but also by disagreements on justice. This motivates philosophers as divergent as John Gray and Chandran Kukathas to focus their normative political theories on peace instead of justice. In this article, I discuss how peace should be conceived if peace is to be a more realistic goal than justice, not presupposing a moral consensus. I distinguish two conceptions of peace to be found in the literature. One, ordinary peace, conceives of peace as non-violent coexistence based on modus vivendi arrangements. Modus vivendi arrangements, in turn, are explained as a special kind of compromise. Ordinary peace does not presuppose a moral consensus and is therefore realistic, but at the same time it is too minimalist and undemanding to be satisfying. The other conception of peace, ambitious peace, can be found in Kukathas’s work. It is a conception of peace ‘beyond compromise’, not minimalist and undemanding, but, I will argue, not realistic because presupposing at least a second-order moral consensus. In the end, I advocate a division of labour between both conceptions of peace under the umbrella of an overarching ideal of peace".

Monday, November 11, 2013

Equality of Opportunity - a Literature Review

John E. Roemer and Alain Trannoy have posted a new paper at SSRN:

"Equality of Opportunity" (112 pages)

"This forthcoming chapter in the Handbook of Income Distribution (eds., A. Atkinson and F. Bourguignon) summarizes the literature on equality of opportunity. We begin by reviewing the philosophical debate concerning equality since Rawls (sections 1 and 2), present economic algorithms for computing policies which equalize opportunities, or, more generally, ways of ordering social policies with respect to their efficacy in opportunity equalization (sections 3, 4 and 5), apply the approach to the conceptualization of economic development (section 6), discuss dynamic issues (section 7), give a preamble to a discussion of empirical work (section 8), provide evidence of population views from surveys and experiments concerning conceptions of equality (section 9), and a discuss measurement issues, summarizing the empirical literature on inequality of opportunity to date (section 10). We conclude with mention of some critiques of the equal-opportunity approach, and some predictions (section 11)."

John E. Roemer is Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale University. He is the author of "Theories of Distributive Justice" (Harvard University Press, 1996) and "Equality of Opportunity" (Harvard University Press, 1998).

Alain Trannoy is Research Director at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Habermas on "Deliberative Democracy and Political Crisis" (video)

Jürgen Habermas gave a lecture at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam on November 5.

A video of the lecture is now available here:

"Deliberative Democracy and Political Crisis"

Habermas's lecture was part of a symposium on "The Future of Democracy". See my previous post on the event and the programme here.

The lecture will be published in Dutch in "De Groene Amsterdammer".

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Erasmus Prize 2013 to Jürgen Habermas [Updated]

On November 6, H. M. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands awards the Erasmus Prize 2013 to Jürgen Habermas at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, at 4.00 p.m.

The Erasmus Prize is an annual award for a person who has made an exceptional contribution to culture, society or social science. The prize money is a sum of Euro 150.000. The theme of the Erasmus Prize this year is "The Future of Democracy". His Majesty the King is patron of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation.

See my previous post on the Erasmus Prize here.

* Jürgen Habermas' acceptance speech
Photos from the ceremony here.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Live Streaming Habermas Lecture in Amsterdam

The symposium on "The Future of Democracy" with Jürgen Habermas in Amsterdam on November 5 will be live streamed here.

The symposium starts with a lecture by Jürgen Habermas on "Deliberative Democracy and Political Crisis" at 10.30 a.m. (local time).

See my previous post on the event and the programme here.

Video of Habermas's lecture here.