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8/10/2019 Felix Petersen
Participation in Politics, Power and Problem Solving
Another Approach in Contemporary Democratic Thinking
Dissertation in Political Science
Humboldt Universitt zu Berlin
Prof. Dr. Silvia von Steinsdorff
Prof. Dr. Andrew Arato
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Chapter 1: The Problem and Methodological Considerations
Democracy as a Contested Concept in Theory and Practice
The Problem of Conceptual Heterogeneity
Toward a Methodology to Deal with Conceptual Heterogeneity
How to Study Theories of Democracy?
Chapter 2: Yet another History of Democracy
Classical Theories of Democracy
The Context , Montesquieu, Rousseau, The Federalist, Preliminary Conclusion
Modern Theories of Democracy
The Context , Rethinking Democracy as Public Politics: Dewey and Arendt, Rethinking Democracy as Elite
Politics: Schumpeter and Dahl, Preliminary Conclusion
Contemporary Theories of Democracy
The Context, Democracy beyond established state institutions and political principles: Habermas, Mouffe/Laclau, I.M.
Young, Preliminary Conclusion
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Chapter 3: Problems of Contemporary Democracy
New Challenges and Old Answers?
Deficits of Democratic Organization
Chapter 4: Solutions to Problems of Democracy
Democracy as Participation in Politics, Power and Problem Solving
Rethinking Institutions, Organizations and Structures for Democratic Politics
Chapter 5: Conclusion
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The Problem and Methodological Considerations
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Democracy as a Contested Concept in Theory and Praxis
Democracy is one of the dominant concepts in social, political and philosophicalresearch. More importantly, it is theform of political organization of modern society. Thisargument should not be misinterpreted, because not all societies have yet establisheddemocratic institutions; neither do all societies that have achieved these institutionsdisplay a praxis of societal organization worthy to be called democratic. But, democracyas a praxis of social and political organization has come to its peak/high point in the 20thand 21st century (e.g. Lijphart 1999; Fukuyama 1989; Mller 2011). From a praxisperspective on politics one can argue without a doubt that democracy and its institutionshave gained prominence since the late 18 thcentury in Europe and the United States, andin the course of the next three centuries in the rest of the world, because of itsemancipatory capacities. The idea that those affected by authority (s)elect the very bodyof rule and furthermore make the laws under which they live, had, and still has, a positivepull effect because of the simple fact that it seems like a paradisiac promise.
Nevertheless, when talking about the evolution of the democratic idea one has to bear inmind that very few of the accomplishments of democracy were won in struggles fordemocracy. John Dewey illustrates in his marvelous The Public and its Problems (Dewey 1954) that none of the institutions of democracy are the result of decidedlydemocratic struggles. His example is the achievement of universal suffrage in England;
and his argument is that what culminated in the expansion of the right to electrepresentatives for parliament to all male citizens with property, which was until that pointa privilege of male aristocrats, was nothing but the result of a bourgeois struggle forparticipation in government (Ibid.: ??). If we stay in England and take as another examplethe expansion of universal suffrage to women, his thesis is even stronger: Neither the
women who fought for their right to vote and finally achieved it in early 20thcentury, northe bourgeois landowners and manufacturers who struggled for voting rights earlier, didthis under the label democracy. Even though these struggles were maybe not grounded ina democratic ideal or caused by a wish for democracy, the consequences were democraticor contributed to what is today perceived as democracy. This means, eventually
democracy is not a praxis of politics constructed as a consisted project of rule but ratherthe consequence of a variety of emancipatory struggles that have been fought over manycenturies in different places by different groups. Examples beyond the struggles for
voting rights are workers movements, civil rights movements, decolonization movements,anti-war movements, environmentalist movements or gay-and-lesbian movements; toname only a few. Metaphorically speaking, all of these struggles opened the center ofauthority, the state, for these excluded groups and these groups gained access to civil andpolitical rights. Rome was not built in a day, and democracy is not the result of onemovement or a single emancipatory struggle. Therefore, one can argue that emancipatory strugglesof various social groups, motivated by a variety of reasons, aiming at a multiplicity of goals continuouslycontributed to the improvement of this praxis of politics.
Up to this point I have refrained from explicitly defining democracy. But, this seems to beimportant, especially against the background of contemporary public discourses that all
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too often and too hasty associate emancipatory struggles as naturally resulting indemocratic institutions and organization. A meaningful and not too far away example isthe Arab Spring. Media outlets around the globe had already celebrated the awakeningof democracy in in a number of societies in Northern Africa and on the ArabianPeninsula shortly after the former rulers had been kicked out of their palaces.1Egypt is a
rewarding example here: long before anything happened that could be associated with thearrival of democracy and its institutions, international media heralded the victory ofdemocracy over dictatorship.2This almost nave assessment was already altered once it
was obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood would win the first elections for parliamentand presidency in Egypt. Now the Western public was afraid of the possible danger of adrift of these societies towards political Islam. Finally, after the military coup d'tat insummer 2013, media outlets changed their perspective again and started questioning,sometimes even self-critical and reflective, that half-cocked assessments of possibleoutcomes of revolutions in these societies collapsed like a house of cards when theconsequences of the revolutions began to manifest in political praxis. But the Egyptian
example points to a very important misconception in public and academic discourse ondemocracy: that democracy is achieved once elections are in view or held, and a certainset of institutions and organizational principles is established. Most importantly, thepublic discussion of the events failed to grasp the actual remarkable facts about theserevolutions. The simple fact that people protested and eventually changed their publicpolitical praxisthat they acted and achieved institutional, organizational, and socialchangeis an indicator that a new stage of social organization is entered. The co-ordinated emancipatory action of individuals that felt unfree and mistreated by theirgovernment is only the initial moment, democratic organization for contemporary masssocieties needs institutions as well as written and unwritten laws and norms, willingness to
comply, civic activity and initiative, and many more things.But, and this is the argument I am getting at, such an undifferentiated perspective is notonly characteristic to the public debate surrounding the revolutions and protests inNorthern Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula. Similar conclusions could be drawn whendiving into the discourse on transformation to democracy that flooded the social sciencediscourse in the 1990s; after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the process ofdemocratization in Eastern Europe, Russia and other societies of the post-Soviet spherehad started. By that time Francis Fukuyama (1989) was very much convinced that it wouldbe only a question of time until all unfree societies would be liberal democratic capitalistsocieties, and that the world at the end of history would be a boring but prospering place.
To cut a long story short: it was assumed that these societies had to simply adopt thesame institutions and practices of social and political organization characteristic to liberalrepresentative democracy and capitalism, and bingo: these societies would flourish and
1 Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali, who had ruled in Tunesia since 1987, resigned after he had lost the supportof important social groups like the military on January 14th2011; Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1989,followed on February 11th2011, after the protestors did not accept his declaration that he would notrun for reelection; Muammar Gaddafi, dictator in Libya since 1969, was killed on October 22nd2011.
2 Thomas Carothers published in March 2011, as a reaction to the enthusiasm about the Arab Spring, avery critical article in Foreign Policy aiming at a more moderate discourse on the political
transformations, and intercepting the hopes of Western publics that were besinging the victory ofdemocracy in the Middle East. Among other things, he argued: In much of the region, there is littlehistorical experience with pluralism.A hard road ahead for democracy is almost certain. (Carothers2011)
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prosper. In a very technical manner it was assumed that societies needed a democraticconstitution, an electoral system, political parties, a strong civil society, functioninggovernment bodies and separation of powers between these bodies. Most importantly thesocieties would need a capitalist market economy with the freedom to entrepreneurship,since this is the foundation of the wealth of Western Nations. Very characteristic for the
slightly political nature of this whole discourse is the fact that social science approachesdiscussing the necessary preconditions of successful societal transformation often ratherassume than really affirm by conclusive argumentation that market economy is anecessary precondition; hence they often fail to estimate the negative consequences such asystem produces for transforming societies.3Thomas Carothers (2011) summarizes in anarticle dealing with the optimism that followed the Arab Spring: During the heyday ofdemocracy's global spread in the 1980s and 1990s, democracy enthusiasts tended not topay much attention to the underlying social, economic, and historical conditions incountries attempting democratic transitions. And this argument pretty well defines theproblem of much of the discourse on democracy which followed the fall of the Berlin
Similar conclusion can be drawn when focusing on the widespread assumption, whichalso relates to the mentioned discourse on the third wave of democratization (e.g.Huntington 1991; Linz/Stepan 1996), that once electoral democracy is established in aformer authoritarian society the rest would follow somehow automatically.4This train ofthought seems to have almost suppressed the possibility that institutional change wouldnot be the sole means necessary to achieve the end of democratic organization. Hungary,for example, was not only in public but as well in scientific debate identified as theparadigm for successful democratic regime change. The most recent politicaldevelopments in this country disabuse of this erroneous belief. The perception that
Hungarian society has a considerable democratic deficit must not only be correlated withgovernment, legislation or policythe Orbn government has changed the constitution,installed a media-censorship commission, removed judges and restricted judicial bodies.
3 Wolfgang Merkel's theory of Embedded Democracy (Merkel 2004) is a good example. Withoutwanting to ignore the immense contribution of Merkel's studies on transforming and democratizingsocieties, I nevertheless want to point out some weaknesses of the approach. He argues: an embeddeddemocracy, his ideal of democratic organization, must be internally and externally embedded. Apolitical regime is democratic, and internally embedded, when rights are granted and protected,separation of powers exists, an electoral regime is installed and when this functions democratically.
Market economy, among others (international relations, oversight over the military, ???), is part of ademocracies environment, hence it is treated in the discussion of external embeddedness. And theargument which he then gives on the economy is very brief. He concludes, if one would want tosummarize, that in order for a democracy to be externally embedded and hence able to realize thenormative goals it aims at, the market economy must function so that social inequality is not to wastewhile at the same time giving the necessary freedom economic enterprise requires in order to providethe society with the wealth necessary. (Quellenangabe?). The problem with this rather simple conceptof the economic condition necessary for functioning democracy is that it is unspecific andundifferentiated. Even though he concludes that social inequality should not be too waste/immensewould, it fails to see that this assumption requires further consideration of the possible dangers ofeconomic action for democratic organization.
4 Freedom House, for example, makes the concept of electoral democracy the minimum necessary to
identify a society as democratic. For further reading, see: Puddington/ et Al. Freedom in the World 2013:The Annual Survey of Political Rights & Civil Liberties, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (2013). For acritique of the idea that electoral democracy realizes the ideal of citizen government (rule of, by andfor the people), see: Howard Zinn.A People's History of the United States,HarperCollins (1980).
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Civil society and the Hungarian public also confirm this deficit: politics is herecharacterized through the para military neo-fascist organizations and their parliamentaryarm Jobbik, and their openly racist attacks and activities against minorities. And thisgroup, organized as a political actor in Hungary, is very successful in elections.5On thesame note we could also talk about the publicly displayed aversion against sexual
minorities in Russia, and correlate this to the assumption that an electoral democracynecessarily leads to a free society. In order to not get lost in selected examples, theproblem should be discussed on a more general level. Everybody who has followed thedevelopments in Russia or Hungary since 1989 must intuitively acknowledge that thesimple export of capitalist and representative democratic institutions did notautomatically lead to democracy. And one can include other examples into the argument:Germany after the Second World War is another telling example too often forgotten. Thestudies of the Frankfurt School on the Authoritarian Personality (Adorno 1950) do notreally confirm that Germans were truly democratic in the early stages of politicalliberalization after the end of the Nazi regime, and neither did the political activity of the
elites indicate this. Media-control for example was until the 1960s in West Germany in therepertoire of politicians.6 Nevertheless, to some extent the institutional system ofparliamentary democracy did function in Germany after 1945.
This critique clearly points towards the dichotomy of form and substance, and translatedinto a theoretical argument it means that the discourse on transforming societies toooften fell for the idea that formal political institutions of democracy suffice as afoundation of free societal organization. Maybe they simply forgot that the relationbetween individuals and the state is in authoritarian societies primarily characterizedthrough domination. And moreover, they also must have forgotten that formal politicalinstitutions always function properly in authoritarian states, at least if viewed from the
perspective that institutions have a goal/aim to realize, which is often even easier toachieve when the group occupying these institutions is small, as is the case inauthoritarian societies. There is yet another alternative: maybe, and this is a sarcasticmaybe, the standards underlying my critique are too lofty, and maybe it is not the functionof social inquiry to base possible solutions to social problems (theories about institutions,organizations, etc.) on the context in which they should be applied.
5 In the election to the European Parliament in 2009 Jobbik won 14.77% of Hungarian votes, and in theelection in 2014 the party almost repeated this result with 14.67%. In 2009 they finished third, afterFIDESZ/KDNP and MSZP; in 2014 they finished second and outpaced MSZP. In the nationalHungarian elections in 2010, Jobbik won 16.67% of the votes and is the third most important party inthe Hungarian Parliament.
6 To illustrate the argument that in the early 1960s, i.e. the phase of democratic consolidation inGermany and the period of the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle), media-control and severecurtailing of freedom of expression was practiced by German authorities, the following two examplesare worth noting: The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (BVerfG) ruled out the plans ofGerman Prime Minister Konrad Adenauer to found a less critical public broadcasting system in thefamous Rundfunkurteil (broadcasting ruling)in 1961 (BVerfG, 28.02.1961 - 2 BvG 1/60 und 2 BvG
2/60). One year later, in the Spiegelaffre (Spiegel Affair), the German magazine Der Spiegelwasaccused of treason for publishing an article on the Bundeswehr, and the Editor Rudolf Augstein washeld in custody for 103 days. (Encyclopedia Britannica, Der Spiegel affair, at:http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/766512/Spiegel-affair ).http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/766512/Spiegel-affairhttp://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/766512/Spiegel-affairhttp://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/766512/Spiegel-affair
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To illustrate that this theoretical excursion was not a merely pathetic critique, I will furtherillustrate what we are to get from the whole argument:
(1) That the scientific (and public) discourse on democracy (theories of democracy)sometimes jumps to conclusions without having in view the whole set of problemsnecessary to arrive at a theory of the social phenomenon.
(2) That for a theory to become relevant for praxis it is necessary to base the conclusionsdrawn on an adequate measurement and analysis of the problems characteristic for asociety.
(3) That in order to arrive at solid conclusions about a social phenomenon (such asdemocracy), it is necessary to study its (historical) formation; only then will a theory orstudy be able to provide solutions to problems of political praxis.
After having reconstructed some of the problems which motivate the attempt of thisstudy to cautiouslyand criticallythink about democracy, let me add some general words onthe history of democracy. The earlier reference to Deweywho had argued that the
institutions of democracy (e.g. political rights) were not received ready-made andaltogether, but are the result of emancipatory struggles over centuries, and hencedemocracy is so to speak the aggregated consequence of social strugglesillustrates in ageneral way the evolution/formation of democracy. Democracy was never a fixed systemor set of institutions, but it was used to describe different forms of political organizationin different historical situations. The current praxis of democratic political organization isonly one example among others. In order to highlight the importance of this conclusionfor thinking about democracy, I will repeat it once again: With Dewey it is possible toassume that democracy is not a fixed idea or set of institutions and practices, which, onceestablished, will once until eternity make a society free, successful and prosperous.
Democracy is more than a set of institutions and praxis of government; it is a social andpolitical life form. Let me substantiate this argument with another reference to JohnDewey, he argues: A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily amode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. (Dewey 2008 :80) And he furthermore concludes: The idea of democracy is a wider and fuller ideathan can be exemplified in the state even at its best. To be realized it must affect all modesof human association, the family, the school, industry, religion. (Dewey 1954: 143).
The alternative to this complex account of democracy is a rather minimalisticaccount, one that is tied to realistic theorists of democracy, such as Joseph A.Schumpeter ( 2008), or to the liberal discourse on the minimal state (e.g. Milton
Friedman  2002). For Schumpeter democracy is simply the process by which rulersare selected through the ruled; here individuals follow benefit maximizing strategies intheir rational (s)election of leaders, which in sum amount to the aggregated will of thepeople (Schumpeter 1942). The discourse on the minimal state argues that the perfectsystem for any free democratic, prosperous society is a night watchmen state7, this is astate that only sets the rules for individual action and sanctions violation of these rules(Friedman 1962).
If we set the complex and the minimalist concept of democracy in relation to eachother, it is evident that both have strengths and weaknesses. Without intending to furtherelaborate on the differences here (a more detailed discussion will follow later), I will come
7 For further reading of this minimalist concept of the democratic state, see: Robert Nozick.Anarchy,State, and Utopia, Blackwell Publishers (1974).
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to a more abstract conclusion: contrasting the two conceptions of democracy brings tothe fore that the concept democracy is not fixed and static but rather open andtransformable. In a problematizing manner this means that the concept is open tosubjective interpretation, which is both, danger advantage. Finally, this is an indicatorexplaining why democracy is a contested concept.
To not leave out the discussion of democratic praxis here, I will emphasize once againthat democracy is not only contested in theory, but also in practice. Historically speaking,especially the 20th century very much illustrates to what extent democracy has beencontested in praxis. Jan-Werner Mller's (2011) study on the 20th century history ofdemocracy in Europe makes this very explicit. The most profound conclusion of this
work is that contemporary European democracyon the level of the nation state as onthe supranational levelis the consequence of a century characterized by the struggle forpower of competing ideologies (e.g. Democracy, Fascism, Socialism, Communism), in
which eventually democracy was victorious. And he makes it very clear that democracywill be contested and challenged in the future (Mller 2011; Petersen 2014: 110).
In order to take this abstract conclusion to a more concrete level, one could argue thatdemocracy is in general always challenged from within and from the outside. It is evidentthat democracy always faces internal and external challenges (problems) it has to address(solve). In order to better grasp this idea, three examples will be discussed briefly. This
will help clarify the hypothesis of the practical continuity of a contesting and challengingof democracy.
Following Wolfgang Streeck (2011), the financial crisis confirmed once again a systemicproblem of democratic capitalismi.e. social organization resting on the democraticprinciple (rule of the governed) and the capitalist principle (rule of the free
market/invisible hand). The German sociologist argues that he understands the near-collapse of public finances as a manifestation of a basic underlying tension in thepolitical-economic configuration of advanced-capitalist societies; a tension which makesdisequilibrium and instability the rule rather than the exception, and which has foundexpression in a historical succession of disturbances within the socio-economic order.(Streeck 2011: 5) This means that the economic bit of these systems poses a majorchallenge for the political system, and most importantly endangers/threatens the rightsand existence of source of all political power. This conclusion is not really new. Already
Jrgen Habermas (1973) and Claus Offe (1972) had argued in the 1970s that capitalistsocieties produced consequences of action which result in legitimacy deficits for political
actors. They described the crisis of late capitalism by highlighting that especially inWestern Europe (e.g. Germany, Great-Britain, France, Scandinavia) the Welfare State, andwith it social policy, have led to legitimacy structures that put democratic institutions andpolitics under pressure when control/steering problems occur which cannot beadequately accomplished. Following this tradition of thoughtand Streeck (2011) comesfrom a similar background, he worked with both Habermas and Offethe recentfinancial crisis displayed once more that the system of democratic capitalism is at timesincapable to reconcile the conflicting logics. Hence, crisis is one of the determiningcharacteristics of democratic capitalism; and negative consequences produced by theeconomic system contest the very substance of the democratic idea, not the other way
around. Here one could draw in much more detail on the negative effects whicheventually may amount to a serious contestation to democracy and precisely analyze theseeffects. Then an analysis of the events and problems resulting from the recent financial
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crisis would be of help (e.g. executivization of fiscal politics and crisis managementthrough EU and national governments; increasing pauperization of South-Europeancitizenry; reemergence of nationalist politics and sentiments), but this is not the aim ofthe study at hand. And to what extent this system crisis led to contestations ofdemocratic principles and practices seems so obvious that it does not even make sense to
go into greater detail here. Nevertheless, in order to arrive at a substantive argument thispraxis challenge to democracy can be summarized as follows: consequences of societalinstitutions which are widely excluded form influence of democratic politics, in particular the economicsystem, constantly threaten and hence contest both functionality and legitimacy of democracy.
Following Colin Crouch (2004), today democratic politics is not democratic anymoresince corporate elites and their decision-making dominates, determines and shapessocietal organization and hence also politics. He argues that democracies havetransformed into postdemocracies:
Under this model, while elections certainly exist and can change governments, public
electoral debate is a tightly controlled spectacle, managed by rival teams of professionalsexpert in the techniques of persuasion, and considering a small range of issues selected bythose teams. The mass of citizens plays a passive, quiescent, even apathetic part,responding only to the signals given them. (Crouch 2004: 4)
Without a doubt, the analysis put forward by Crouch has its qualities and weaknesses. It isan attempt to respond to the problem-complexes the economic system and its logic poseto democracy, and moreover to the adaption of political elites to the logic of democraticcapitalism. But, if compared to the above mentioned critique of democratic capitalism(Streeck 2011), Crouch's book Postdemocracy rather reads like a political pamphlet
written in an academic style.8 And one can legitimately ask if this is a serious piece of
analysis or rather the vague feeling of powerlessness (Mller 2012) turned into politicalconclusions that beweep the end of the era of social democratic politics. In a dunningmanner, Crouch frustrates what he calls the optimistic view of current democracy, andargues that this has nothing to say about the fundamental problem of the power ofcorporate elites. (Crouch 2004: 13) Exactly this problem, the power of corporateelites, is the theme at the center of concern in his analysis of democracy (Ibid.).
Again, without a doubt the conclusions Crouch arrives at might be contested.Nevertheless, it is possible to extract at least some interesting bits from the discoursearound postdemocracy. Jan-Werner Mller (2012) rightly concludes in an article in theSuisse NZZ that postdemocracy is not postparliamentarism but postpluralism
And this is the interesting part of Crouch's analysis. But the very politicallyloaded language in which he describes the problem makes it at times difficult to follow hisargument.10Crouch is not alone in his conclusion that one of the fundamental challenges
8 Wolfgang Streeck and Colin Crouch are part of a group of critical social scientists surrounding theMax-Planck Institute for The Study of Society in Cologne. They have addressed the problems ofdemocratic capitalism and the contestation of democratic politics through the economic system incollaborative works, for example: Wolfgang Streeck/Colin Crouch (Ed). The diversity of democracy:corporatism, social order and political conflict, Edward Elgar (2006).
9 Jan-Werner Mller (2012) moreover points out the problem with the concept postdemocracy forpolitical action, namely that it can deepen the feeling that the corrupt system of politics is not
democratic anymore, and accordingly that political activism is meaningless, redundant and without anyimpact on political praxis.10 Crouch (2004: 21) speaks of the reduction of politicians to something more resembling shopkeepers
than rulers, anxiously seeking to discover what their customers want in order to stay in business.
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of democratic politics in contemporary society is the contestation of pluralism. JacquesRanciere (2001) has pointed out that the kind of contemporary state politics threateningdiversity and pluralism could result in the victory of police over politics. Chantal Mouffeand Ernesto Laclau ( 2001) addressed already in the 1980s that liberal democraticpolitics is based on the systematic exclusion of certain identities from discourse about
politics and political decision-making.
Now, let me bring these ideas together: Basic principles and with it institutions ofdemocracysuch as pluralism of identities, equality of rights, diversity of forms ofpolitical action, difference of interests, full political representation, social justice, etc.areconstantly and increasingly threatened by conformist responses to societal problems andcrisis. Moreover, the actors dominating the political and economic system (societal elites)seem to have agreed upon a paternalistic praxis of decision-making enabling them toassume that political participation ends with the closing of the ballot. And that anyimportant decision to be met will be decided between the societal (political andeconomic) elites. Thus, participation in politics is nearly impossible; and it is doubtful ifpublic politics can affect political decision making at all. According to this view, the greatestchallenge for realizing democracy in contemporary societies comes from the professionalization,marketization, and statetization of politics, which continuously erodes any real opportunity of public
partaking in politics.
To complete the picture, democracy is not only challenged in praxis through activitieswhich follow a logic conflicting with democratic principles (e.g. economic action), or fromsevere consequences social systems, such as the economy, produce. Yet, another complexof problems results fromwhat I will call in a slightly complicated manner undemocraticpraxis disguised as democracy. And here one can think of different examples:
Historically speaking, undemocratic governments often assumed a quasi-democratic formby simply adopting institutions and practices without introducing the praxis necessary torealize democracy. Adolf Hitler claimed that the form of government established inGermany under his rule was much more a realization of the democratic ideal than thatrealized in liberal democracies, and Carl Schmitt provided him with the theoreticaljustification of this idea (Schmitt ?????; Mller 2011: ????). Leninist or Stalinist accountsof socialism also played with the terminology and legitimacy conceptions of democracy,one example among many others is the construction of constitutions and parliamentarypraxis in socialist societies (Mller 2011: ????). In the 1970s and 1980s Eastern andCentral European socialist governments promoted the concept of people's
democracies to legitimize their form of rule (Ibid.). Today authoritarian rulersincreasingly make use of the benefits connected to the dejure-but-not-defactoimplementation of electoral institutions, and hence attempt to legitimize their own ruleinternally and externally. This phenomenon is discussed under the label electoralauthoritarianism (Schendler 2006, 2013). A very recent and indicative example that takesthe case of mimicry11of democratic practice to another stage is the national referendumsurrounding the annexation of the Crimea to Russia in 2014. The referendum suggestedthat the citizens of the Crimea, formally Ukrainians, could independently decide whetherthe peninsula should be part of the Russian or the Ukrainian State and its politicaladministration. Even though this is not my intention, one could argue that inrevolutionary situationsand the events in Ukraine definitely were some kind of
11 For an intriguing discussion of mimicry as a social and cultural phenomenon, see: Homi Bhabha. OfMimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse(1984).
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revolutionary situation,when the normal flow of politics is interrupted, it is possible touse means not always fully democratic to achieve the goal of a free society. To begin with,it is very unlikely that aim of the Crimea-Referendum was in fact to build a free society,based on the will of the people, even more since it was not concerning the independenceof the peninsula but its integration into the Russian Federation. Unfortunately, the
integration of territory and administration of one state into another state requirestransparency and accountability in order to realize such an act with respect tointernational law. A positive example of this kind would be the Saar Statute referendum in1955, in which the citizens of the Saar area were asked whether or not they wantedindependence. This referendum, in which the citizens decided against independence, wasorganized under the auspices of the Allies and the Council of Europe. The CrimeanReferendum was held without international observers, and reports on manipulation werenumerous.12Nevertheless, the Separatists could not stop to emphasize the legitimacy ofthis referendum and the propagandistic public discourse in Russia celebrated the truedemocratic nature of this act of national unification. Interesting about this example is not
the question whether this act was legitimate or illegitimate, but the fact that an instrumentof popular democratic governmenta poll of the interest of a citizenry on an importantquestion of interest for the whole societywas instrumentalized to realize the goals ofdominant social groups with the backup of powerful allies. And again comes to mind the
Aristotelian argument that the problem with government of the people is thatdemagogues may be able to utilize the institutions of a democracy and alienate them fromtheir original purpose. In order to come to terms with the problem of mimicry ofdemocracy, scholars have already in the 1990s responded with conceptual differentiationssuch as illiberal democracy (Zakaria 1997), delegative democracy (O'Donnell 1994), ordefective democracy (Merkel 2004). Nevertheless, this only led to a further complication
of the discussion.To bring this thought to an end: the adaption and formal but not substantial implementation ofinstitutions and practices of democracy contests the very foundation of this form of politics. The praxis isdiscredited and challenged in the real world by competing approaches to societal organization imitatingdemocracy. The theoretical discussions around these forms of not-democracy invent subtypes of democratic
government, whereas in fact since these societies only resemble institutions and practices of democracy whilethe authoritarian character of the regimes is much more decisive and determining for their praxis. Both,
practical challenges to democracy and theoretical blurring of this form of political and societalorganization, amount to another contestation of democracy that erodes the constitutive principles ofdemocratic politics, and moreover blurs the conceptual framework. Eventually, every institution of or idea
about democracy might be corrupted.
To arrive at a first conclusion on the problem-set addressed in this study, the following isto be noted: It is always necessary to think about democracy, because challenges to thiskind of political and societal organization also continuously change and transform.Hence, to continuously think about democracy can, for example, help to address somepractical challenges. Nevertheless, in order for the discourse on this subject to becomeonce again relevant for political praxis, contributions have to be courageous enough toreturn to the broad questions. It has to answer questions such as: What are thefundaments of democratic organization? What challenges are ahead of the democraticproject and what are the means to solve the current and future problems?
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From a contemporary standpointwhich ties democracy to concepts such as equality,individuality, justice, solidaritythe contextual gap to ancient conceptualizations ofsocietal organization is often to grand. Nevertheless, it might enable to reconstruct
influencing factors leading to its refusal, acceptance or propagandizing. And we can learnsomething about the challenges leading to a social and philosophical construction ofpolitical organization by and for all members of a polity. But, these are only very broadand abstract characteristics, in order to conceptualize democracy for a contemporaryproblem setting and hence in a more sophisticated, detailed and functional form, it makessense to inquiry into theory and praxis of democracy understood as a legitimate form ofjust political organization. This means to start with enlightenment philosophy, with the
works of the great 18th century philosophers, with Montesquieu ( 2006) forexample, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau ( 2006), or with the Federalists ([1787-1788]????). These are the authors that articulated the fundaments of modern democracy, rule-of-law and self-government. And through the Federalistswho were very muchinfluenced by the reading of Scottish Enlightenment thinking, Montesquieu, andRousseautheir political thinking furthermore directly contributed and constructed thedemocratic state order in the United States.
Yet another point of departure for the study of theory of democracy would be modernpolitical thinking, in the first place theories that are developed in the 20thcentury. Thiscentury has brought a variety of theoretical and empirical contributions: John DeweysThe Public and Its Problems ( 1954), Joseph Schumpeters Capitalism, Socialismand Democracy( 2006), Hannah Arendts The Human Condition( 1998),or Robert Dahls Polyarchy (1971). All of these agree on the fact that at least all members
of a society constituted as a nation state that possess citizenship must have the right toinfluence the actions of societal authorities. In most cases this is thought and realized in asystem of representative government, where officials can claim democratic legitimacysince they are selected through citizens that possess a number of rights, for example to
vote and to organize in private and public organizations. And when more recenttheoretical contributions are taken into consideration, one can think of democracy as: acooperative process of deliberation about the content and form of societal organization(Habermas 1998), or a struggle for hegemony, that includes all people affected by politicalauthority into decision-making (Mouffe/Laclau  2001), or grants minorities certainpriority rights in political decision-making (Young 2000).
Through the following three stages the terminological evolution of the conceptdemocracy can be reconstructed in the following very broad way: (1) in antiquityrudimentary forms of democracy are practiced, while democracy is philosophicallydiscredited as the most acceptable of the vicious types of government. (2) In the course
14 One can argue that the Politea, in Aristotle a mix of democratic and oligarchic governmenti.e.rule by the many in contrast to rule by one (monarchy) and rule by the few (aristocracy)iswhat comes closest to post-classic ideas of democracy. This is due to the fact that democracy is inAristotelian theory, together with oligarchy, among the vicious forms of constitution. This is yetanother bit of evidence that helps to comprehend why it makes little sense to focus on classical ancient
theory of politics when reconstructing the foundations of democracy. For a very intriguing discussionof the Politea, see: Hannah Arendt. The Human Condition, Chicago UP ( 1998). For a betterunderstanding of ancient Greek Politics, see: Cornelius Castoriadis. The Greek Polis and the Creation ofDemocracy, Oxford UP( 1997).
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of enlightenment philosophy and the era of the great revolutions (Hobsbawm 1962) theconcept democracy is rehabilitated and re-actualized as the only just form of politicalgovernment, even though democratic political praxis is still very exclusionary. (3) Sincethe early 20th century theory and practice of democracy are advanced and refined,institutions are further developed, new ideas are feed into the discourse, and theory and
practice, once more, attempt to go beyond the habitualized praxis of democratic politics.
Fig. 1: Three Stages of Conceptual development in theory and praxis of democracy
(800 BC700 AD)
Early Modernityand early IndustrialSociety
Theory Philosophical Definitionand Devaluation ofDemocracy
PhilosophicalReformulation andRehabilitation ofDemocracy
Philosophical sophisticationand diversification ofconcepts of democracy
Praxis Rudimentary DemocraticPraxis in Roman Empire,Greek Antiquity, andGerman and VikingSocieties with ratherexclusive rights regimes
Democratic Revolutionsand institutionalization ofdemocratic politicalregimes,institutionalization ofincreasingly inclusiverights regimes
Diffusion and systematicsafeguarding of DemocraticInstitutions and citizen rights;rights regimes react to citizenclaims and political protest orcitizen intervention
Through the three stages of terminological evolution one can clearly deduce a basicconcept of democracy: this is rule of the people, as it is indicated in the Greek roots demos(people) and kratos (power). This means, and on this point all authors agree: democracy,
albeit possible variances that depend on the respective societal singularities, is signified asa political/institutional regime organizing its affairs directly or mediated through theindividuals counted as part of the democracy. For individual conceptualizations orimplementations of democracy and its instruments these variances are very important.
And even though the foundational meaning is never disputed, discussion arises overissues of institutionalization or practice. This very factthe conceptual heterogeneity andcontestability of democracycan be seen as a strength of democratic theory. It may eventurn out to provide a number of advantages when treated adequately and systematically,because it enables to map characteristics of democracy while relying on a variety ofsources. Nevertheless, for (ontologically) fundamentalist theorists the heterogeneity ofconceptualizations of democracy (instead of the concept of democracy) posesmethodological challenges and might, even rightly, cause confusion. If analyticalsystematizations aim at complexity reduction, to treat a problem in its full complexity mayseemdepending on the underlying philosophical approacheither counter-intuitive ormad. Hence, when wanting to make this complexity fruitful for analytical purposes, thequestion of how to treat the complexity problem arises immediately.
Situated within a broader theoretical frame one can argue, with Wittgenstein (1958: ??) forexample, that democracy is a concept with blurred edges. And the blurring of theconceptual edges depends on the multiplicity of perspectives on the assumed subject ofinquiry, and the historical transformation the meaning of concepts such as democracy,
politics or the State has undergone. For adherers of foundational or substantialist theorysuch a perspective might be too relativist, on the other hand such a decentralized andplural recourse to sources of theoretical knowledge about democracy seems to comply
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very much with the idea of democracy. For those who couldnt care less aboutsubstantialism, as well as for critics of truth-seeking social science, Clifford Geertzsdescription of the anthropological method may sound very much to the point. He argues:Anthropology, or at least interpretive anthropology, is a science whose progress ismarked less by a perfection of consensus than by a refinement of debate. What gets
better is the precision with which we vex each other. (Geertz 1993: Part VIII) Bearing inmind social constructivist assumptions (e.g. Berger/Luckmann 1967) this can bedeveloped this into a meta-theoretical conclusion: concepts, like democracy, always emerge withina specific moment of history, in a specific form of societal organization, signifying a specific constructionof social reality. Therefore, it is no surprise that different conceptualizations of democracy have differentreferences, and therefore highlight different characteristics as most relevant. For this reason one is hardlyable to find a coherent definition of democracy.
And this conclusion can be transferred to other disciplines within the humanities.Conceptual adequacy/perfection is always the aim of all systematizing approaches, butoften definitions are based on rather subjective dispositions. But, and this is important,conceptual complexity is not simply the result of a constant frustration of the positivistsocial science assumption of objectivity, or the ideological corruption of philosophicalquest for truth. Conceptual complexity derives, if we follow the basic assumption ofKosellecks Begriffsgeschichten (conceptual histories15), from the fact that conceptsintegrate different contents, and meanings are often overlapping within this concept(Koselleck 1989: 120, 125). Let me draw for further illustration on some of Kosellecksideas about democracy. The question of political (constitutional) legitimacy, he argues,changed in the 18th century. Prior to the political writings, and more importantly: therevolutionary events of this emancipatory era (e.g. French and American Revolution),monarchy, aristocracy and democracy were all perceived as legitimate political
constitutions. After these events, at the latest in the 19thcentury, democracy is perceivedas the only legitimate form of political organization (Koselleck 2006: 81; 381). Thismeans, 18thcentury discourse and praxis of politics has changed the relation between theconcepts monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, leading to a depreciation of the formerand an upvaluation of the latter. Nevertheless, from an idea historical perspective it isnecessary to be aware of the fact that democracy was not always the only legitimate formof political organization.16 Inquiring into the formation history of any concept means
15 According to Koselleck (1989) every concept needs an analysis that goes beyond the explicit meaningof the word at a specific point in time, and must undertake to reconstruct various layers that may
influence meaning in conceptual genesis. The concept democracy itself pretty much illustratesKosellecks argument, and he even uses this to exemplify his approach (Koselleck 1989: 117ff.). Inorder to understand the methodological discussion within political theory more substantially, thefollowing works are worth reading: James Tully. Political Philosophy as Critical Activity(2002); RichardRorty. The Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres(1984).
16 Koselleck (1989) argues: Einmal formulierte Begriffe wie politeia, res publica oder Verfassungsind zwar situationsbezogen entstanden, sie blieben immer konkret verwendbar und werden in actuauch so verwendet. Aber sie enthalten ebenso Mglichkeiten, die wieder abrufbar sind, weil die vonihnen begriffenen Sachverhalte zwar nicht identisch, aber analog wiederkehren knnen. Es gibt ebenBegriffe, die nicht veralten und deren Bedeutungsgehalte sich nur teilweise verndern. Republik undDemokratie gehren zu diesen Begriffen, die sinnvollerweise sowohl in antiken wie in neuzeitlichenVerfassungsgeschichten verwendet werden mssen. Es ist eben mglich, mit aristotelischen Kategorien
auch Phnomene der modernen totalitren Diktaturen zu beschreiben. Und wo sie nicht mehrausreichen, mssen neue Begriffe geprgt und verwendet werden, um das Andersartige und Neueunserer modernen Erfahrung erfassen zu knnen. Allgemein gewendet: Jede Verfassungsgeschichte hatnicht nur historische Aspekte, sie impliziert immer auch systematische, strukturelle Fragen. Diese aber
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than to be able to account for the fact that the meaning of a concept may have changedthroughout history. At the same time, such an inquiry also helps to identify what parts ofa concept have remained adequate, contemporary or topical.
From a strict point of view it is always necessary to have a concrete research question
guiding the analysis. To not fail on this account, here comes a broader research questionwhich hovers above the theoretical discussion of democracy: What decisive characteristics ofdemocracy can be reconstructed when inquiring the conceptual evolution since the 18thcentury?
sind ohne Begriffe und ihre Definitionen nicht zu beantworten. (Koselleck 1989: 381f.)
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Toward a Methodology to deal with Conceptual HeterogeneityWhat indications follow from the argument on conceptual heterogeneity for the study ofdemocracy? Firstly, that the object must be approached from a multitude of standpointsand include a variety of opinions. Secondly, that, most likely, theories of democracy differbecause they respond to different problem-settings. They are, so to speak, contextdependent17, or more concrete: theoretical correctives of different societal problem-settings. The disputability of key characteristics of democracyeven though likely to turnout to be a qualityoften has consequences. Consider the following: Given the fact thatconceptualizations of democracy vary, scholars introduce oppositions such as for exampleliberal vs. republican democracy (Habermas 1994) or deliberative vs. radical democracy (Mouffe
2000) in order to be able to organize this discursive field. This leads in my perspective to aperpetuation of disagreement between competing approaches that undertake to explainjust organization of society not entirely different, but still through the lens of a particularpolitical perspective. To overcome this more or less ideological, or to speak lessexaggerating: political foundation of conceptualizations, this study ventures a differentapproach. The intention is to reconstruct basic principles to be found in differentconceptualizations of democracy, to set these in relation to each other and eventuallyarrive at a definition of democracy beyond classical oppositions. So to speak: to constructan empirically and theoretically valid conception of democracy informed by a variety ofconsiderations and guided by a balancing of reasons/arguments.
Methodological guideline for this endeavor, to use a very broad framing, will be apragmatist from of social inquiry. Let me say a few words about pragmatism in generalbefore I come to the important bits of the theory for this study on democracy.
In recent years pragmatist thinking has had a renaissance, and some even speak of apragmatic turn in political theory (Bernstein 2010; Erman/Mller 2014).18 But whatactually is pragmatism? Or to pose the question differently: what are the decisivecharacteristics that constitute pragmatism as a philosophy, methodology or form of logic?
John Bohman (2002) gives the following description of pragmatist theory: A pragmatictheory is the outcome of social inquiry into a particular problem, giving as full an
assessment as possible of the inhibiting and enabling conditions for the realization of aparticular normative ideal. (Ibid.: 500, footnote 1) This sounds very abstract, so ano therdefintion may be of help. Eva Erman and Niklas Mller (2014) identify pragmatism as a
view that gives primacy to human practices, encouraging a way of philosophizing moreapt to dealing with problems of everyday life. (Ibid.: 2)
The term pragmatism was first used by William James in 1898 in a talk he held before thePhilosophical Union of the University of California in Berkeley (Bernstein 2010: 1f). It isfrom the very begin associated with the word praxis, or the principle of practicalism
17 Similar theoretical assumptions guide the methodology of the Cambridge School of Political
thought, for example the works of J.G.A. Pocock (2009), or Quentin Skinner (1969, 2002).18 For an overview of the development of pragmatist philosophy in the 20th century see: RichardBernstein. The Pragmatic Turn, Polity Press (2010). Robert Brandom. Pragmatist Perspectives: Classical,Recent, and Contemporary, Harvard UP (2011).
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(James 1997: 348), and Bernstein (2010: x) continues: They (the pragmatists, FP) soughtto develop a comprehensive alternative to Cartesianism a nonfoundational self-corrective conception of human inquiry based upon an understanding of how humanagents are formed by, and actively participate in shaping, normative social practices.
A next question could be: What can we do with pragmatism? Following Bohman (2002),pragmatism can help to make social science, here political theory, more practical. Totheoretically embrace the problems of social praxis is an idea which political thinking in acritical tradition always attempts to realize. And examples to be mentioned are numerous:
we can begin with Hegel's theory of experience, Marx' praxis of critique, and later withthe Frankfurt School of critical theory, Habermas' theory of rational reconstruction,Foucault's discourse analysis, or Bourdieu's theory of practice. Pragmatism, this is thepoint I want to make, is yet another attempt to make theory dependent on and relevantfor social praxis.
In following a pragmatist form of inquiry, it is necessary to firstly clarify whether or not
pragmatism, as a method of social science, has any problems or pitfalls. For this reasonwe will have to encounter with the debate surrounding classical pragmatism, so to speakthe original critique of pragmatism. This is necessary due to the fact that some recentcritical accounts of pragmatism seem to have lost track of the original ideas of pragmatistsocial inquiry. Erman/Mller (2014), for example, criticize neo-pragmatist thinking for itssituationalist, contextualist and perspectival account of language which seems to disableany kind of normative universalism (Ibid.). Let me draw on this critique for anothermoment, it will help to lay open the kind of pragmatist inquiry which informs my studyof democracy. Even though it is feasible to somehow include Wittgenstein into the groupof pragmatists, as Erman/Mller (2014) doRichard Bernstein (2010: 15-22) and Richard
Rorty (????) have repeatedly stressed the family resemblances between pragmatist thoughtand European thinkers such as Wittgenstein or Heideggerit is everything but obviousthat pragmatism is primarily a philosophy of language. If we take Robert Brandom aspoint of reference, and his theory articulated in Making it Explicit (Brandom 19???), andErman/Mller address Brandom's assumption of the grounding of meaning in socialpractice (Erman Mller 2014: 15), it would be possible to follow this argument.Nevertheless, it is not Brandom alone, neither is it Wittgenstein that they criticize.Erman/Mller discuss the relation between original theories of pragmatist theories inthe widest sense possible and the problematic use of these theories in endeavors claimingto be rooted in some kind of pragmatism. Basically speaking, they criticize that to
conceptualize politics as a hegemonically closed language-game is not of too much help,and the neo-pragmatists they discuss (Mouffe, Norman, Tully) argue that language gamesas provided for in the theories of Habermas, Rawls or Forst support the problem ofexclusionary mainstream politics (democracy), that is a closing of the universe ofpossibilities (Erman/Mller 2014: 12). But this is not a sophisticated or comprehensivecritique of pragmatism, it is rather an attempt to diminish some kind of neo-pragmatistcritique aiming at the universalistic characteristics of theories, to which on the other handthe authors seem to be inclined to some extent.
Some things should be noted here: it seems problematic to view pragmatism orpragmatist theories/approaches as mainly philosophies of language, and even though the
linguistic turn established the assumption that action is primarily communication (cf.Wittgenstein ????, Arendt ????, Austin ????, Searl ????, Habermas ????) this does not lead tothe conclusion that all political theory is to a greater or lesser extent philosophy of
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language. As mentioned earlier, pragmatism is first of all a philosophy of praxis whichinquiries into the principles or mechanisms of the social world; pragmatisms aims tounderstand these principles and is not interested in any quest for certainty (Dewey inBernstein 2010: x), or the discovery of the best normative political theory. A pragmatistapproach is mainly interested in establishing a non-foundational frame for theorizing, and
this is a way to comply with the simple fact that the social world operates in a continuumof change. The inquiry conducted in this study will not primarily work in the tradition ofphilosophy of language, whatever this is, but simply perceive theories of democracy asintellectual acts aiming at transformation of social praxis.
Let me now turn to the above-mentioned critique of original pragmatism. This relatesvery well to the argument that pragmatism set out to conceptualize an approach todetermine a nonfoundational self-corrective conception of human inquiry based uponan understanding of how human agents are formed by, and actively participate in shaping,normative social practices. (Bernstein 2010: x)A possible strand of original pragmatistcritique comes from the Frankfurt School, namely from Max Horkheimer (1947) andHerbert Marcuse ( 2014). Max Horkheimer's critique of pragmatism is a critique ofpositivism and empiricism. And furthermore the intellectual accusation that pragmatismhas contributed significantly to the subjectivization of reason (Horkheimer 1947: 42,footnote 22). Pragmatism, by that time the dominant American philosophy, is discussedextensively in his Eclipse of Reason (1947). And the summary of a few central argumentstaken from this work will help to comprehend the relation of the Frankfurt School toPragmatism. Horkheimer argues for example: The core of this philosophy (pragmatism,FP) is the opinion that an idea, a concept, or a theory is nothing but a scheme or plan ofaction, and therefore truth is nothing but the successfulness of the idea. (Ibid. 42)
Another problem of pragmatism is that it has from its beginnings implicitly justified the
current substitution of the logic of probability for that of truth (Ibid.: 44)19. Moreover,the only method valid for pragmatism is the experiment (Ibid.: 49), put differentlypragmatists display a certain fetish for the laboratory, experiments and natural sciences(Ibid. 46-50).
Pragmatism, in trying to turn experimental physics into a prototype of all science and tomodel all spheres of intellectual life after the techniques of the laboratory, is thecounterpart of modern industrialism, for which the factory is the prototype of humanexistence, and which models all branches of culture after production on the conveyor belt,or after the rationalized front office. (Ibid.: 50)
19 The following arguments deny that pragmatism has any interest in truth, which for Horkheimer is thevery aim all philosophy should strive for to achieve: While philosophy in its objectivistic stage soughtto be the agency that brought human conduct, including scientific undertakings, to a finalunderstanding of its own reason and justice, pragmatism tries to retranslate any understanding intomere conduct. Its ambition is to be itself nothing else but practical activity, as distinct from theoreticalinsight, which, according to pragmatistic teachings, is either only a name for physical events or justmeaningless. But a doctrine that seriously attempts to dissolve the intellectual categories such as truth,meaning, or conceptions into practical attitudes cannot itself expect to be conceived in the intellectualsense of the word; it can only try to function as a mechanism for starting certain series of events.According to Dewey, whose philosophy is the most radical and consistent form of pragmatism, hisown theory 'means that knowing is literally something which we do; that analysis is ultimately physical
and active; that meanings in their logical quality are standpoints, attitudes, and methods of behaviortoward facts, and that active experimentation is essential to verification.' (Horkheimer 1947: 48f.) Or:According to pragmatism, truth is to be desired not for its own sake but in so far as it works best, as itleads us to something that is alien or at least different from truth itself. (Ibid.: 45)
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Interestingly, his discussion of Dewey's work, and the depreciation with which he treatsCharles S. Peirce, reveals much about the European arrogance displayed towards
American philosophy by that time.20Horkheimer wrongly concludes that pragmatism is aform of conformist philosophy, which instead of changing the wrong praxis of capitalistsociety so that it serves the interests of the individuals makes the individual apply itself to
this praxis. Put differently, one could argue that Horkheimer does not see theemancipatory character of pragmatism as a political philosophy, which for critical theoryindeed is the yardstick that makes a social science practical and hence legitimate(Horkheimer 1937; Bohman 2002: 503). But this is not the final word of the Frankfurterscritique: Pragmatism is not only a philosophy without emancipatory capacities, it ismoreover accused of being an attempt to elevate an ideologynamely the market-logic
the end justifies the meansto a philosophy (cf. Horkheimer 1947: 46 Dietz 2013: 331f.).This accusation is particularly wrong since it does not take into account the fact thatDewey had participated in the debate on Ends and Means with Karl Kautsky and Leo
Trotzki (cf. Dewey 1938), and that he had a critical position towards the strict assumption
of Trotzki that the end liberation of the proletariatwould legitimate all means.21Why wouldhe then come up with a theory of inquiry that translates this principle of either brutalcapitalism or repressive authoritarianism into a philosophy?
Herbert Marcuse, yet another representative of the Frankfurt School, and one of themost influential critical thinkers in the 197022, discussed John Dewey's Logic: The Theory ofInquiry (Marcuse  2014). And this simple book review is another valuable source ofinformation when wanting to understand the critique of critical theory towardpragmatism. Already in the beginning of his book review Marcuse makes it very clear thathe fully rejects the whole idea of pragmatism (Marcuse 2014: 258). Not the best conditionto account without bias for the particularities of a way of philosophical and logicalthought. And, as Max Horkheimer, Marcuse also very much reveals in this text the hubrisand arrogance European thinkers showed toward their American colleagues. Already onthe first page Marcuse accuses Dewey, with the manner of a conservative philosophyprofessor that reminds his student that he did not do his reading very well, that the
American pragmatist does not fully account for the tradition and history of Europeanphilosophical thinking about logic. Marcuse argues that Dewey does not includeEuropean thought, apart from Aristotle, into his pragmatist logic; neither transcendentallogic, nor Hegel or Husserl and their attempts are discussed (Ibid.). Today we knowthat this accusation is untenable and weak, since Dewey was very much influenced byEuropean Philosophy, and contemporary research on pragmatist philosophy emphasizes
especially Hegel's influence on Dewey.23 Cheryl Misak writes in her The American
20 If it were not for the founder of the school, Charles S. Peirce, who has told usthat he 'learnedphilosophy out of Kant one might be tempted to deny any philosophical pedigree to a doctrine thatholds not that our expectations are fulfilled and our actions successful because our ideas are true, butrather that our ideas are true because our expectations are fulfilled and our actions successful.(Horkheimer 1947: 42)
21 For an interesting presentation of the debate, see: Ulrich Kohlmann. Dewey, Kautsky, Trotzki - Politik undMoral: Die Zweck-Mittel-Debatte in der neueren Philosophie und Politik, 2001. Furthermore, and in order tograsp the discourse on the relation of ends and means at that time, see: Aldous Huxley.Ends and
Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals, Transaction Publishers ( 2012).
22 Jan-Werner Mller (2011) gives a very interesting account of Marcuse's influence on the generation of1968 in his Contesting Democracy. Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe(Mller 2011: ??). For furtherreading: Herbert Marcuse. One-Dimensional Man, Beacon Press, 1964.
23 For further reading on the influence of Hegel on Dewey, or the relation between Hegelian and
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Pragmatists(2013): In any event, he (Dewey) was a Hegelian in his graduate student daysand he was on an intellectual collision course with the irascible Peirce. (109)Furthermore, Misak argues well-founded, that the foundation of Dewey's theory of inquiry,his logic, is basically Hegelian. Dewey's pragmatism is one with a residue ofHegelianism (107).
Even though Marcuse is not thinking with but against Dewey, his discussion ofpragmatism is still helpful. Marcuse (2014: 260) reconstructs correctly that thepresupposition of Dewey's theory is that logical forms are always resulting from thepraxis of inquiry. Research is conditioned by the total culture of a time. And (t)hemodel for the judgment is the defined sense in the judgment of the court24 whichdetermines (settles) a controversial case. (Ibid. 261) On the same page he gives a veryprecise reconstruction of the way Dewey thinks logic operates. And even though Marcuseis not convinced of Dewey's approach, his reconstruction points to the most decisiveprinciple of pragmatist methodology. He argues:
It (the judgment, FP) comes to light as the result of a series of operations (partial judgments)according to the following model: any existing (and for the prevailing context of inquiry notsatisfactorily determined) facts of the case should become resolved as something determinate.Certain possible solutions (predications) are yielded out of this general (cultural) and particularsituation in which the research takes place. They will be tried out and weighted against oneanother. If one of these possible solutions shows itself as one that determines the facts of the casein a way that is adequate for the goal of the research, the judgment is complete. (Marcuse 2014:261)
It is very clear from the beginning that the Frankfurt School representative is critical ofthe simplistic, and action/behavior centered approach of a theory of logic. Marcuse, andhere he agrees once more with Horkheimer, thinks that Dewey is not able to point out a
path to arrive at the truth of concepts, since he intertwines subject matter and form, andmakes the truth depending on the subjective position of the researcher. He argues:
In fact, truth is not the regulative principle of this logic. If each concept and each proposition iswhat it is only by its function in the continuum of a determined research, then it is not the truth,but order, that is the principle which decides the significance of concepts and propositions. Thetraditional distinction between the concept and its object (form and subject matter) thefoundation of the traditional definition of truthvanishes, because each object is only through theconcepts by which the present research determines the object. () Epistemologically formulated:as soon as reality becomes conceptually determined only by its relevant function within a researchproject, the difference between concept and reality does not exist at all. (262)
If we take a look into the work which Marcuse is tearing apart (Dewey's Logic), we findthe following argument. John Dewey wanted that his attempt to spell out a pragmatistlogic was understood as an introductory attempt; so to speak as a presentation of a point
Pragmatist thinking see: Richard Rorty. Dewey between Hegel and Darwin(1998); Richard Bernstein. Hegeland Pragmatism(2010); Arvi Srkel.Ein Drama in drei Akten. Der Kampf um ffentliche Anerkennung nachDewey und Hegel(2013); Trevor Pearce. The Dialectical Biologist, circa 1890: John Dewey and the OxfordHegelians(forthcoming).
24 Here it would be interesting to know what court system Marcuse had in mind, since case law systemsand continental law systems are very different. Whereas in the European tradition the judge presiding acourt is the source of truth, in the case law logic the truth is somewhere out there and it will be
determined in the trial whether claimant or defendant speak the truth. Marcuse, in a very Europeantradition, seems to be convinced that there is one, and only one, truth. Maybe it is more the juridicalprinciple he had in mind, and this would make sense as he points out that Dewey discusses thetraditional components of the judgment (subject, predicate, copula). (Marcuse 2014: 261)
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of view and method of approach (Dewey 1939: Preface, page V), as a workinghypothesis and not a complete theory. He comes up with a very simplistic Americantheory of logic, this is what we may learn from the critical theory critique. A theory
which, for example, does not qualitatively distinguish in a revaluating/devaluating mannerexpert and layman knowledge. And this is certainly true, but nothing which should be
treated with depreciation.25 In the Public and its Problems (Dewey 1927) Dewey illustrateswith reference to a very demonstrative example the relevance of both. He argues thatboth shoe-maker and shoe-wearer are important in order to have good shoes: the latterknows where the shoe pinches, the former is the expert to make the shoe less pinching.
And Marcuse (2014: 263) in his review admits that this is a quality. He argues: It isimportant that Dewey lays such great value on decreasing the distance between scienceand everyday praxis, to show that theory does not genuinely do anything other thaneveryday praxisonly unmethodologicallydoes as well. Here it seems that Marcuse gotDewey's point, namely that science is a methodological form of common sense, and thatimproving social interaction and societal organization may stand and fall with the
diffusion and disappearance of intelligence, not reason. But then, towards the end ofMarcuse's book review he once again reveals the typical European ignorance towards
American thought.26 Dewey's pragmatist logic is termed naturalistic, and it isquestioned whether such an attitude toward the facts (can) still claim truth today (Ibid.264). Eventually Dewey is unable to clarify how logical thought builds itself up (Ibid.265) and Marcuse concludes that to point out the continuity of lower and highertypes of behavior is no answer (Ibid.) to the questions a theory of logic is facing.
If we take both critical accounts together, we might arrive at the following conclusion:Pragmatism has a tendency to be naturalistic, positivistic, empiricist, or scientistic. With Marcuse we caneven argue that pragmatism is problematic since truth depends on the subjective position of the
philosopher. Moreover, this fact we may learn from Horkheimer, pragmatism has no emancipatorypotential as a political philosophy.
Let me begin with the last critique, because here the answer is very simple. And eventhough this study is not interested in the possible but very unlikely lack of criticalpotential this school of thought may or may not have, I have to address this untenable bitof critique. If we take John Dewey as point of referencehe is the classical pragmatist
with the most consistent political theory and by the time Horkheimer and Marcuse werewriting the most prominent pragmatist figurewe find counter-arguments in his politicalphilosophy. In the Public and Its Problems (Dewey 1927) he argues that in order to realize
the promise of democracy, namely that the ruled are the rulers and citizens thedetermining factor in political and social organization, the democratic regimes of histimein the first place the United Stateswould need to be transformed through thepublic, so that the creative potential of participatory public politics exercised throughintelligent citizens would be the determining factor in political decision-making. Hence hisnormative ideal of a free society is not too distant from that of critical theorists, but heprovides different means to reach this form of social organization: instead of promoting
25 John Dewey argued: It is beyond doubt that the progressive and unstable character of American lifeand civilization has facilitated the birth of a philosophy which regards the world as being in continuous
formation, where there is still place for indeterminism, for the new, and for a real future. (Quote fromBernstein 2010: 9)26 John Dewey even refers to this general problem between European and American thinkers in the
beginning of the 20th century. He argues: (Dewey 1927: ??).
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class struggle as the only feasible means and revolution the goal of social inquiry, Deweyargues that societies may arrive at an adequate mode of democratic organization (andadequate means here in relation to the problems a society faces) when publics wouldbecome conscious and finally exert influence, and if the educational system would enablecitizens to become the intelligent, responsible and active individuals necessary for such
form of societal organization (cf. Dewey 1927; Bernstein 2010: 70f.).
Let me turn to the other problems: the subjective position of the researcher and itsimpact on truth, and the accusation that pragmatism is positivistic, naturalistic, empiricist,or scientistic. In the chapter on social inquiry, Dewey (1939: 487ff.) speaks of the longrun phase of knowledge, and the self-developing and self-correcting nature ofscientific inquiry. (Ibid. 490) A good example to further understand how he thinksscience works, is his description of the relation between subject (inquirer) and group(community of inquirers): An inquirer in a given special field appeals to the experiencesof the community of his fellow workers for confirmation and correction of his results.Until agreement upon consequences is reached by those who reinstate the conditions setforth, the conclusions that are announced by an individual inquirer have the status of ahypothesis, especially if the findings fail to agree with the general trend of alreadyestablished accepted results. (Ibid.) This invalidates Marcuse's critique that truth is inpragmatist social inquiry based on the subjective ideas of the inquirer, but at the sametime it may reinstate Horkheimer's accusation that pragmatism does not question therepressive social order of capitalist societies but rather promotes its prolongation. What ifthe community of inquirers only holds true those truths which promote the interestsof the ruling class, a critical theorist might wonder. Since Dewey believes that all scienceis interested in solving problems, such a critique would be still untenable.27
Much more important is the critique introduced with the concepts positivism, naturalism,empiricism or scienticism.As already mentioned earlier, Bohman (2002) argues thatpragmatism can help make social science more practical. But given the Frankfurt Schoolcritique we could assume that pragmatism with its scientism-bias would approach socialfacts in a positivist way that eventually falls for the constructions ruling groups (or tobetter imitate the Frankfurt School critique: the ruling class) distribute to uphold theirhegemony. In simple words: we could fall for the reality the ruling groups want us tobelieve, and thus we would fail to reveal the real problems. Fortunately, this would be onlytrue if Horkheimer and Marcuse were right in assuming that pragmatism is so naturalisticthat it would fail differentiate between real and constructed facts. In order to see if the
critical theory critique is dispensable, if will briefly inquiry what concept of a social factpragmatists employ.
According to Bohman (2002), for pragmatists social facts are not simply given (empiricistpositivism), nor solely constructed (social constructionism/constructivism). Rather theyrepresent the problems and conflicts that are the hard realities that agents encounter inany set of social practices, institutions and arrangements. (Ibid. 505) This would meanthat the critique is untenable, and that the whole discussion of the problems ofpragmatism defined by the Frankfurt School was useless.28 I will consult John Dewey
27 And here a critical theorist, thinking strictly in the tradition of Horkheimer and Marcuse, could add
that it is decisive if a problem is constructed by the ruled or the rulersbut I will not further engage infalsification of more hypothetical arguments one could possibly find to criticize pragmatist socialinquiry (author note).
28 Bohman's article (2002) is very revealing when wanting to understand the relation between critical
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once more, what does he have to say about social facts? He definitely sees the problem ofpositivism when describing that social sciences assume that facts are out there and onlyneed to be observed, assembled and arranged to give rise to suitable and groundedgeneralizations. (Dewey 1939: 495) This assumption is wrong, Dewey concludes. Howthen treat facts, one could ask? As Bohman (2002) shows, pragmatists see facts as both
real and constructed. Furthermore, we learn from Dewey that facts should be viewed asboth obstacles and resources (Dewey 1939: 499); this means to see facts in the firstplace as problems to be solved and resource for the solution necessary. This pointstoward the conclusion that pragmatism does not treat facts in a positivist manner, and I
would even go so far as to argue that the treatment of social facts isto use acontemporary phraseclose to being post-foundational.29 It seems that none of thesubstantial arguments against pragmatist social inquiry really apply. And maybe theFrankfurt School critique is misleading since it is unable to fully account for whatpragmatism really is, and is therefore more or less a polemic. It would be indeed harsh tofully neglect the criticism articulated by Marcuse and Horkheimer. Nevertheless, their
criticism seems to be rather resource then obstacle to finding arguments why pragmatistphilosophy is indeed a fertile ground for the framing of critical social inquiry.
Up to this point I discussed, more or less, the possible problems of pragmatism withoutreally explaining in detail what I understand by pragmatism beyond the simple assumptionthat this is a praxis-interested form of social sciences. Moreover, it might be still veryimprecise why this would be of any help to come to terms with the problem ofconceptual heterogeneity.
Let me once again refer to Dewey here. I understand John Dewey's theory of socialinquiry as an attempt to describe how coordinated and determined action (research,
politics, economics) functions in society; so to speak a theory of the rational-intelligentindividual. Abstractly speaking, this rational-intelligent individual operates in the followingway: when confronted with the world, humans experience certain problems. In order tosurvive, individuals are forced to solve these problems. To do so, different ideas aredeveloped through reflection and communication with other individuals, and differentsolutions tested; often leading to failure to solve a problem and the necessity to test othersolutions. Then inquiry is only an ideal-type of this problem-oriented action. WhatDewey has articulated for a general theory of logic, is also established in his politicaltheory. Here he argues that when individuals encounter collective problems, this is (directand indirect) consequences of action which affect an individual or a group of individuals,
they aim to form a public with the intention to solve the problem, this means to come toterms with the consequences of action.
theory and pragmatism. Critical theory, he argues, is practical because its normative goal was/ishuman emancipation (Ibid.: 503). The researcher is here using the perspective of a critical-reflectiveparticipant (Ibid.). Critical theory promotes this kind of critical practical knowledge, because agentsgain precisely the sort of knowledge needed for effective social agency and freedom in the socialworld. (Ibid.) This perspective, even though very normative and overconfident in substance, assumesto be the form of critique which eventually will lead to revolution (heritage of Marxism). The yardstickfor adequate forms of critique is human emancipation/emancipation of human kind, the free society.Pragmatism has a different approach: Rather than assuming this authoritarian stance, pluralistic
inquiry answers to a different norm of correctness: that criticism must be verified by thoseparticipating in the practice and that this demand for practical verification is part of the process ofinquiry itself. (505)
29 Funote post-foundational theory.
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How is this of any help when wanting to deal with conceptual heterogeneity? Deweydefines as one of the qualities of the natural sciences that they experiment with aplurality of hypotheses (Dewey 1939: 507), and therefore inquiry in these disciplines ismuch more flexible, effective and encompassing. If we now transfer this to the problemthat concepts of democracy are just too manifold, and operate with the pragmatist logic
that facts are obstacles and resources at the same time, conceptual heterogeneity is not aproblem anymore. Nevertheless, conceptual heterogeneity requires an adequate form ofexperiment, or less pragmatist speaking: an adequate framing that enables tosystematically reconstruct relevant characteristics of democracy.
How to study Theories of Democracy?
The foregoing discussion of pragmatism was only one element of the methodologicalaccount, so to speak a way of unfolding the underlying understanding necessary to deal
with the conceptual heterogeneity of democracy. As already stressed earlier, democracy isa concept that is not fixed but open, at times even for very contrary claims. Therefore weneed to trace the conceptual development, i.e. to measure the conceptual field. Thecontinuity of thinking about democracythe history of democratic thinkinghasbrought about different theories with various solutions to realize the goal of a society in
which the ruled rule. Therefore, only a systematic analysis of this history, or better: ofreally relevant theories of democracy, will eventually enable to fully account for an answerto the question: What is democracy?
Taking a pragmatist view on the subject could mean to view the history of theory andpractice of democracy as a constant experiment, in which over the centuries different
solutions have developed and been tested in the field. This does not mean that theories isthe foundation of praxis, but only that theory and praxis always correspond with eachother to some extent. To be very explicit: in my view a pragmatist view on theory ofdemocracy can be to view the theories as correctives of social practice, so to speakhypotheses developed in the praxis of social inquiry focused on just political organization.
Theories are then primarily solutions to solve a problematic social practice.
If we assume that different theories of democracy respond to different societal problem-settings, than analysis must master the task to illustrate these relations reasonably and in acomprehensive manner. On an abstract level this indicates that theories are to beunderstood as responding to critical situations of praxis, and might be understood as
conceptual correctives of this very praxis. Henceforth and in order to extensively graspthe meaning of a concept, it must be viewed as embedded in a societal context,constituted by power, institutions, organization, ideology, science and conflict of interestfor example. This strategy seems to be promising and should eventually lead to moresubstantial understanding of the respective contributions and evolution in the field ofdemocratic theory in general.
What implications follow from this hypothesis? To begin with: that political theories arecontext-dependent. This could mean that they are historically bound to some specificpoint in time. And I have already earlier illustrated that Aristotle for example may not bethe adequate source when conceptualizing institutions for contemporary societies. Butcontext-dependency rather means that theories always address a specific problematicsocial context and provide solutions to specific social problems. Consequently, we can
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argue that in order to understand the theories adequately it is first necessary to understandthe context. Here it would be possible to argue: then the methodology developed by theCambridge School of Political Thought (e.g. Pockock, Skinner, Tully) would be theadequate foundation for such an approach. And this may be the case, but this study doesnot attempt to fully reconstruct the linguistic and historical context relevant for a theory.
It is rather interested in the relevant social facts which constitute the problem-complextheories of democracy address. And these are, as we know from the earlier discussion ofpragmatism, neither completely real nor fully constructed; but somewhere in between.
This does not mean to admit that the accounts of historical contexts will be incomplete,or even