CFP: Realist and pragmatist approaches to democratic legitimacy: Contesting the empirical - normative divide?

Submission deadline: November 23, 2017

Conference date(s):
November 23, 2017 - November 24, 2017

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Conference Venue:

Noriwch, United Kingdom


Realist and pragmatist approaches to democratic legitimacy: Contesting the empirical - normative divide?

Workshop at the University of East Anglia (UEA), 23-24 November 2017; confirmed speakers include Prof. David Owen (Southampton), Prof. Matthew Festenstein (York), Dr. Enzo Rossi (UVA); Dr. Andrea Sangiovanni (KCL), Dr. Thomas Fossen (Leiden); convener: Dr. Janosch Prinz, UEA

The division between empirical and normative approaches to the study of legitimacy is deeply ingrained in the disciplinary traditions of sociology, political science and political theory/philosophy. Recent scholarship on the question of democratic legitimacy from range of realist and pragmatist perspectives in social and political theory/philosophy might be viewed as contesting this division. This workshop will take stock of take stock of these recent contributions. A main goal of the workshop will be to explore whether realist and pragmatist approaches, taken separately or through their combination, have the potential to overcome or at least to contest the normative-empirical divide in the study of democratic legitimacy.

The question of legitimacy is equally central to realist and pragmatist political thought. Both realist and pragmatist approaches to legitimacy seek to question notions of legitimacy based principally on hypothetical consent or on normative justifiability based on external moral criteria. They both study the mediation of claims to authority, from the dyadic to the structural, and the way this mediation is reflected in the evaluative criteria deemed appropriate or effective by claimants to authority, their addressees and the theorists trying to make sense of legitimacy.

Pragmatist approaches have been challenging the model of theory-building in normative political theory and have incorporated the normative potential in citizens’ speech and action. Yet it remains unclear how these methodological and theoretical changes translate into diagnoses and normative recommendations. Realists have criticized moralism and idealism in political philosophy/theory and sought to develop alternatives based on logics and value internal to politics. However, realists approaches have had very little to say about what understanding of social reality underpins their stipulations about politics and the political and what democratic theory might learn from realism.

Contributors are invited to consider the (non-exhaustive list of the) following themes:

What should be the ambitions of a realist-pragmatist approach to democratic legitimacy? Should it try to furnish general criteria for evaluating regimes? Should it try to articulate the normative potential in a particular political context? Should it attempt to intervene in politics?

What kind of critical purchase do such approaches claim and how do they furnish such critical purchase? In which areas should a connection between such approaches and the wider field of critical theory be pursued?

What are the methodological implications, in particular for how to make sense of “social reality” and integrate the “findings” into theory building (e.g. what about anthropological field work)? What does this mean for the division of labour with empirical social science?

Where do realist and pragmatist approaches clash?

What could a democratic legitimacy from realist and pragmatist means beyond the nation state?

What is the place of citizens’ vocabularies for making sense of democratic legitimacy for conceptualization it from realist and pragmatist points of view?

What does realist legitimacy mean for democratic theory? Can there by a realist theory of democratic legitimacy or even a realist democratic theory?

Please submit abstracts of approximately 500 words to until 5 August 2017. Registration for attendees is open and will close 20 September 2017.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided. A workshop dinner will likely be held on the first evening.

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