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Political Theory

This article was originally published at Justice Everywhere. When you tell people that you work on republicanism, you are often met by a concerned look. You then have to rush to explain that by ‘republicanism’ you, of course, do not mean the party of Trump and Palin. Nor – you then have to add – do you only mean that you take a particular dislike to Elizabeth Windsor. This public understanding of republicanism looks set to only get worse, with the French centre-right UMP party, last year, successfully renaming itself Les Républicains. The prospects for recovering republicanism for leftist politics might therefore not seem particularly promising. The label ‘republican’ might simply be too poisoned by its associations with right-wing parties or too easily …

In October and November, two citizens’ assemblies will be taking place in Sheffield and Southampton. Organised by a coalition of academics and civil society organisations under the banner Democracy Matters, Assembly North and Assembly South represent significant interventions in contemporary British politics. First, the assemblies will be dealing with a fundamental constitutional question: how should we be governed? The main focus of the assemblies will be devolution and decentralisation of power to English regions. The Devolution Deals that are current government policy are piecemeal reforms. And as the term ‘Deal’ suggests, they are stitched together by local and national elites: citizens have had no say in how they should be governed. Following the much publicised Devolution Deal for Greater Manchester, …

The institutions, technologies and practices of British democracy are, for the most part, inventions from before the time of universal suffrage.  In the fluidity and fracture of the 21st century, it is clear this democratic inheritance has become increasingly inadequate. Sharp, sustained differences in participation and voice by age, class, ethnicity and region have become entrenched. Politics has professionalised, class identities have weakened, and political parties have drifted from their anchors in civil society, left ‘ruling the void’. Reinforcing the post-democratic drift, the evolution of the UK’s political economy has shrunk the potential scope for and influence of collective political action and democratic participation. The general election clarified our evolution towards a divided democracy.  As IPPR’s new report into political inequality shows, less …

Young people are disadvantaged economically yet politically marginalised and demonised. Are youth quotas in parliament part of the answer? It is now widely acknowledged that young generations are faring particularly badly in Britain.[i] There is growing concern for a ‘jilted generation’ burdened with debts and structural unemployment. In 1992, the unemployment rate of the young was twice as high as for the rest of the population; two decades later, it is up to four times higher.[ii] Even when they do have jobs, young people are disproportionately likely to be in precarious positions such as zero-hour contracts, temporary contracts and unpaid internships. Despite this context of job scarcity and the structural precariousness they have to face, the young are often regarded …

Studies of human behavior and psychology have received extensive attention in public policy. Economists, social theorists and philosophers have long analyzed the incentives of human actions, decision making, rationality, motivation, and other cognitive processes. More recently, the study of happiness furthered the debate in public policy, as many governments brought up the necessity for new measures of social progress. The discussion was bolstered when the UN passed a critical resolution in July 2011 inviting member countries to measure the happiness of their people as a tool to help guide public policies. It was also hoped that discussions about happiness would serve to refine the wider debate about the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030 and the standards for measuring and understanding well-being. The World Happiness Report, a recent initiative, attempts to analyze and rate happiness as an indicator to track social progress. These recent initiatives serve as reminders that sound public policies must evolve in strong connection with an understanding of human psychology, emotions and the sources of happiness and satisfaction. Nevertheless, there are further invaluable insights from neuroscience that have remained less explored. Contemporary neuroscientific research and an understanding of the predispositions of our neurochemistry challenge classical thought on human nature and inform us of fundamental elements that must accompany good governance.

Generally, Islamists believe in the Universalist concept of Ummah (Islamic community of believers), a supranational or transnational union. The Islamists’ call for unity of the Ummah is based on the belief that Muslims throughout the world should have a sense of solidarity among them cutting across the borders of the nation-state. In this respect, Islamism has justifications to oppose the concept of the nation-state. The Islamist ideologue Maududi (1993) was opposed to the idea of the nation-state, and citizenship based on nationality, considering nationalism to be divisive and as such incompatible with Islam (Maududi 1992). Conceptually, ‘Ummah’ incorporates the Muslim community in the world as a whole. Therefore, Islamism always tries to claim itself as a ‘mass ideology’ instead of a ‘class one’. For a mass ideology, it asserts the unity of ‘Ummah’ where persons across class, national, linguistic and gender divides can become a part. As an effective tool of political mobilization, the universal concept of Ummah is absolutely crucial in Islamist political ideology. In Laclau’s (1996) terms, one can argue that in Islamist politics, Ummah acts as an ‘empty signifier’ around which different particularities are organized to claim a common universal identity. The idea of Ummah provides the ground for Islamists to take the challenge of rallying the entire Muslim community under a single political project, a project I call Islamist populism.

More than rights, a set of guiding principles is needed to counterpose to the reigning ideals of ‘security’, ‘growth’ and ‘innovation’. Alternative ideals, perhaps, such as democracy, health and environmental sustainability?  See part one.  The net has the potential to revolutionize democracy with an informed citizenry empowered to deliberate and decide on key issues. Yet current trends strengthen anti-democratic forces. In addition to concerns over privacy, there is an urgent need to address how the public realm is being hollowed out by corporate interests and advertisers. The ideal of democracy presupposes a shared public sphere in which citizens can construct, debate and decide on collective projects. This requires access to quality information and while the net has certainly increased the …

Under the rubric of state security on the one hand and commercial openness on the other, we are being lulled into an online world of fear and control where our every move is monitored in order to more efficiently manage us. This article launches a new section of the Great Charter Convention dedicated to debate and analysis of democracy, politics and freedom in the digital age. It is clear that we are at a crucial historical juncture. The issues around state power and surveillance raised by Edward Snowden’s revelations should be an important theme in the upcoming general election, while the symbolic double anniversary of Magna Carta (aged 800) and the web (aged 25) offers an opportunity for critical reflection on how …