Report on Exeter Workshop on “New Approaches to Political Cohesion in Democratic Systems”, co-funded by PSA Political Thought Group
2 January 2018
The Workshop was organised by the Centre of Political Thought (Exeter), with the collaboration of Oxford University and a contribution from the PSA Political Thought Group.
The Workshop took place at Exeter University on Wednesday 29 November. Its general purpose was to discuss the recent contributions to democratic theory by Matteo Bonotti (Cardiff, and from 2018 Monash University), Joseph Lacey (Oxford), and Sofia Näsström (Upssala). Bonotti and Lacey have recently published books exploring ideas of partisanship and political integration in multilingual societies respectively. Näsström, who has published a series of influential papers on democracy, peoplehood and representation, is currently working at a more comprehensive statement on what she calls the “spirit” of modern democratic societies. The more particular purpose of the Workshop was to explore how the particular approaches to democratic theory developed by the three authors contributed to conceptualise the relationship between ideal democratic theory and the question of political stability and political cohesion. Democratic debates and traditional approaches to democratic systems have concentrated on issues of procedure and substance, but have more rearely articulated a precise answer on the impact that various kinds of democratic processes and conceptions of democracy may have on political cohesion and stability. The presentations of the three authors therefore focussed not only on the general outlines of their own approaches to democratic theory but also to how their approaches dealt with this particular theoretical and practical problemsThe Workshop was organised in three sessions, each on the various approaches, opened by a general statement by the author and followed by two comments by invited speakers. Jonathan White (LSE) and Dario Castiglione (Exeter) commented on Bonotti’s presentation; Richard Bellamy (EUI, Florence) and Sandra Kröger (Exeter) commented on Lacey’s; and David Owen (Southampton) and Dario Castiglione (Exeter) commented on Näsström’s. Each session was followed by a lively discussion.
As a follow-up to the Workshop, the organisers of the event have submitted a proposal to Contemporary Political Theory for the publication of a Critical Exchanges section on the theme of “Democratic Theory and Political Cohesion”, which is meant to develop further some of the discussions that took place as part of the Workshop. The proposal has in principle been approved by the Journal and the manuscript will be submitted by the Spring of 2018 for peer-review.
We are grateful to the PSA for supporting this initiative.
Dario Castiglione (Director Centre of Political Thought, Exeter University)