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Article

The literature on political representation is split between research traditions that have remained largely separate: a philosophical normative strand, a behavioralist one focusing mainly on the roles held by representatives, and a third, more distinctly sociological one concerned primarily with issues of representativeness. These classical perspectives have been extended through the introduction of new dimensions into the analysis. The normative tradition has thus been able to formulate novel questions by considering, for instance, issues relating to the representation of nonhuman species or of future generations. Present-day writings on political representation also depart from accepted premises by integrating additional infra-institutional forms of representation. Similarly, a postmodern vein of thought has drawn increased attention to the fluidity of the processes involved and a rather hybrid literature has emerged that combines empirical and normative ambitions. Despite claims by some analysts to have renewed approaches on the topic, there are not so much major theoretical innovations as developments relating to the dynamics of political representation itself in the contemporary era. It is important to realize that much of the analysis of political representation has been couched in very general terms and that the field itself suffers from a lack of serious comparative work. In this respect, more inductive explorations are needed into the perceptions of representation (too often reduced to mere constructivist mechanisms), the concrete logics of accountability, and the “theatrical” dimension of the relationship—in all of which there has been underinvestment by political scientists.

Article

Toleration is a classic category of Western political theory. Liberalism can be said to have evolved as a generalization of debates on religious toleration from the 17th century onward. Many debates in political theory about matters of current concern, ranging from debates about free speech and hate-speech legislation, over attitudes to practices of minority groups, to the legitimate extent of state interference in particular areas of social life, are framed as debates on toleration. Finally, some of the most prominent theories within political philosophy view toleration as a central concept, for example, Rawls’s political liberalism. This continuous presence of the notion of toleration within political philosophy has resulted in a standard definition of toleration and a set of standard debates about toleration. Toleration is standardly understood as requiring disapproval or dislike, the power to interfere, and to consist in the abstention from this interference. This has given rise to debates about which kinds of disapproval or dislike are required, whether the condition of power is in itself problematic, and whether noninterference only counts as toleration if motivated by certain kinds of reasons. Nevertheless, this standard concept of toleration curiously fails to capture some of the prominent debates that are often framed in terms of toleration. It is for instance not at all clear whether and how the standard concept applies to states and to individuals regulated by state laws. It is also often unclear whether toleration as defined is a normative ideal or merely a descriptive concept and what the point of using the concept is in either case. Finally, there is surprising little reflection on what the significance is of the space of toleration between interference and lack of disapproval or dislike, and how changes in this space of toleration can be understood.

Article

LGBT people have gone from being a “politics” to a “people” from the end of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st. They were mostly excluded from public life, and reduced to their sexuality. And when they weren’t reduced, they were restricted. Legislatures, not only failed to protect LGBT people from discrimination, but created new barriers for them under the guise of “protecting” the presumed heterosexual and cisgender basis of society. In America, the Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) are the most consequential examples of legislative action that treats LGBT people as morality issues rather than citizens. As LGBT people have gone from the margins to the center of public life, however, their political status changed. LGBT people are no longer a sexuality—but a constituency. There is an undisputed electoral connection. Legislators act on behalf of LGBT constituents in symbolic and substantive ways ranging from membership in LGBT caucuses in their chambers, to voting for bills that clearly help LGBT citizens in specific ways. They also exert pressure on representatives for whom they share no electoral connection, and who are not themselves LGBT. These allies act for LGBT citizens because they it aligns with ideological beliefs in justice and equity. This growth in activity has not only been limited to the US Congress, but has also occurred in US state legislatures and around the world. Activity has not always been synonymous with success, as the US Congress’s long struggle to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that is inclusive of all aspects of the “LGBT” umbrella demonstrates. Nevertheless, LGBT voters are no longer “an issue”, but a part of the polity. Now that “LGBT” is an established political group there are serious questions that need to be addressed about what is being represented—and why it matters.

Article

Contextualism denotes a set of ideas about the importance of attention to context. The topic of the article is contextualism in normative political theory/philosophy, in relation to the part of political theory concerned with systematic political argument for normative claims—evaluative claims about the legitimacy, justice, or relative goodness of acts, policies or institutions, and prescriptive claims about what we should do, which decision procedures we should follow, or how institutions should be reformed. In terms of what counts as context, it denotes facts concerning particular cases that can be invoked to contextualize a specific object of political discussion such as a law, an institution, or the like. Contextualism denotes any view that political theory should take context into account, but there are many different views about what this means. Contextualism can be characterized by way of different contrasts, which imply that the resulting conceptions of contextualism are views about different things, such as justification, the nature of political theory, or methodology. Here the focus is on characterizations of contextualism in terms of methodology and justification that provide different views about what role context can play in political argument. In the course of doing this, a number of problems facing the different versions of contextualism are identified, including problems of reification and status quo bias, problems of securing that political theory is both critical and action guiding while still being contextualist, and the problem of delimiting the relevant context. Different ways of avoiding these problems are sketched. It is argued that there are forms of contextualism that can avoid the problems, but that these might not be as distinctive as some contextualists think. This also means that contextualism might, in fact, be a more common approach to political theory than sometimes suggested.

Article

Multiculturalism has been used both as a descriptive and a normative term, as well as a term referring to particular types of state policies. As a descriptive term, multiculturalism refers to the state of affairs present in contemporary societies: that of cultural diversity. As a normative term, multiculturalism affirms cultural diversity as an acceptable state of affairs, and provides normative grounds for accommodating this diversity. As a policy-oriented term, multiculturalism refers to a variety of state policies that aim to accommodate people’s cultural differences—most notably, different types of culturally differentiated rights. The main focus of the debates on multiculturalism within political philosophy has been on normative multiculturalism, and the broader normative questions relating to the appropriate grounds for responding to people’s cultural differences. The debates on descriptive multiculturalism and on particular multicultural policies, however, feed into the debates on normative multiculturalism. One’s views on the nature of culture, the value of culture, and the appropriate means of demarcating group boundaries have implications on the ways in which one understands the proper objects of cultural accommodation, as well as the extent to which such accommodation should be applied. The different types of multicultural policies—including rights of indigenous groups, immigrants, and national minorities—incorporate slightly different sets of normative considerations that must be independently assessed and that also feed into the more general debates on the normative foundations for cultural accommodation. Equality-based and identity-based arguments for cultural concern provide strong grounds for the state to be concerned about people’s cultural differences and to aim to alleviate culturally induced disadvantages. The case for (or against) culturally differentiated rights as a means for responding to these disadvantages may, however, come from several sources, including approaches to cultural diversity based on equality, autonomy, toleration, and state neutrality. While there is relative (albeit not full) agreement among normative theorists of multiculturalism that differentiated rights may be acceptable, though not always required or even desired, responses to cultural diversity, disagreements about the normative bases, and extents of application, remain.

Article

Jens Damgaard Thaysen

Modern states pursue most of their (domestic) ends by creating law and acting in accordance with the law they create. Moreover, many believe states ought to pursue most of their ends this way. If a state ought to do something, then chances are it ought to do it by creating, abolishing, changing, upholding, or enforcing some law. Therefore, almost any kind of political philosophy with bearing on what states should do has bearing on what law should be like. Justifying the legal proscription of some conduct involves more than just showing that citizens ought to refrain from that conduct. Legally restricting conduct is an exercise of coercion and must be justified as such. Criminal prohibitions in particular require special justification, as they are not only coercive but also commit the state to deliberately inflict the harm and stigma of punishment on some of its own citizens. Nevertheless, if the state must coerce its citizens, it ought generally to do so through a law that conforms to the rule of law. Law conforms to the rule of law if it is capable of guiding the citizens as they act and plan for the future. This the law can do only if it is open, clear, prospective, and stable, such that citizens can know what it demands now and predict with reasonable certainty what it will demand in the future. Conformity to the rule of law promotes freedom and is required to respect human dignity. Much of the debate about the justification and scope of legal coercion revolves around several principles that advance claims about what considerations are relevant to the justifiability of law. These principles all have the following structure: The fact that a legal restriction of a certain kind is related in a certain way to a certain type of conduct has a certain impact on whether that restriction is justifiable. Common principles include (a) legal moralism, according to which it is always a good reason to criminalize conduct that the conduct is wrongful; (b) the wrongness constraint, according to which criminalizing morally permissible conduct is never justified; (c) liberalism, according to which it is always a good reason to criminalize conduct that the conduct is either harmful or seriously offensive to others, and criminalizing conduct that is neither harmful nor offensive is never justified; (d) the public wrong principle, according to which it is always a good reason to criminalize conduct that the conduct is a public wrong, and criminalizing conduct is never justified unless the conduct is a public wrong; (e) the sovereignty principle, according to which the only legitimate restrictions on conduct are those that secure independence. Which, if any, of these principles one should accept is the subject of an extensive and sophisticated academic debate.

Article

David Ryan and Liam O'Brien

Democracy promotion has been a key aspect of U.S. identity and foreign policy, though Washington also has a long history of supporting non-democratic forms of governance; it has both consolidated democratic regimes and intervened to overthrow democratically elected governments. Democracy promotion is a broad term encompassing different activities, undertaken as part of a nation’s foreign policy, which intend to initiate and foster democratic governance abroad. Democracy promotion efforts may include, among other strategies, “traditional” diplomacy, targeted foreign aid and assistance, and both covert and overt military intervention. While democracy promotion has now become an accepted foreign policy norm among many nations, numerous issues and debates continue to surround its deployment, ranging from granular questions concerning how to best distribute foreign aid up to larger, more fundamental disputes centered on the effectiveness and legitimacy of democracy promotion. Such issues have a particular relevance to the history of U.S. foreign policy: the meta-narrative of U.S. foreign policy and its grand strategy is axiomatically associated with democracy and with democracy promotion. Indeed, given its self-characterization as a shining “city on a hill,” charges of inconsistency and double-standards frequently attend U.S. efforts at democracy promotion. Certainly, despite the rhetorical positions of many presidents, democracy promotion has never been the driving factor behind U.S. foreign policy but rather one component of a wider picture. The United States has frequently supported authoritarian regimes, undermined democracy, or supported a form of “low-intensity” or limited veneer of democratic practice. That said, the institutionalization of U.S. democracy promotion has not only set it more firmly on the agenda but also made it a more visible feature of U.S. policy. The democracy promotion efforts that served the Reagan administration’s goals in Latin America—mainly funding quasi-governmental groups that sought to foster opposition to unfriendly governments and strengthen civic society in target countries more generally—have provided a model for the basis of a large democracy promotion industry, providing a genuine substance to U.S. democracy promotion rhetoric in the process. The “industrialization” of democracy promotion, however, has created its own issues; namely an uncritical environment in which the promotion of a relatively shallow form of U.S.–style democracy has been presumed to be best, no matter the individual circumstances and nuances of target countries. The problems formed by such biases, along with a host of other challenges, will likely ensure that U.S. democracy promotion remains a contentious issue for some time to come.