Democracy and Intergenerational Justice (Workshop at MANCEPT Workshops - online panel)

September 9, 2020 - September 11, 2020
MANCEPT, University of Manchester

Arthur Lewis Building
Manchester M13 9PL
United Kingdom

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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University of Warwick
Catholic University of Louvain
University of Warwick


University of Warwick
University of Warwick
Leuphana University of Lüneburg

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Panel at MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory

Monday 9th September to Wednesday 11th September 2019, Manchester, University

Workshop Convenors: Jonathan Hoffmann (University of Warwick), Gah-Kai Leung (University of Warwick), Michael Rose (Leuphana University of Lüneburg)

Keynotes: Simon Caney (University of Warwick)

                Axel Gosseries (University of Louvain)

About the Workshop:

Democracies are commonly diagnosed with a harmful short-sightedness which makes it difficult to recognise and deal with long-term risks and challenges. This bias towards the present arises out of many institutional, cultural, and anthropological factors, among them the election cycle, the influence of special interest groups and the ineptitude of humans to deal with ‘creeping problems.’ In light of this, democracies seem ill-equipped to deal with challenges such as the climate crisis, artificial intelligence or microbial resistance. Thus, the ability of the living generation to take the interests of future people into account and to fulfil its obligations to future people is hampered.

Consequently, several countries have taken measures to facilitate long-term oriented decision-making, e.g. by establishing commissioners for future generations (Hungary, since 2008; Israel, 2001-06; Wales, since 2016) or a parliamentary committee for the future (Finland, since 1993), some of them having considerable capabilities for influence. Furthermore, scholars discuss a wide range of proposals for new future-oriented institutions (F-Institutions). These include the representation of future generations in parliament, ombudspersons for the future, regulatory impact assessments, advisory councils, deliberative mini-publics as well as the enfranchisement of the young, the disenfranchisement of the elderly and many more.

Despite the growing range of proposals for F-Institutions, questions regarding their justification and legitimacy, design, and implementation deserve further discussion. Intergenerational equity, democratic legitimacy, and generational sovereignty all exert their normative pull on the democratic system and consequently on the design of F-Institutions. For example, the ability of each generation to govern itself collectively seems incompatible with the idea of institutionally binding the currently living to ensure that they meet their obligations of intergenerational justice. Further, honouring obligations of intergenerational justice may suggest installing F-Institutions with extensive influence on the political decision-making process, while a concern for democratic legitimacy might foreclose many proposals for F-Institutions.

Further questions to be addressed:

-          How can F-Institutions be justified? For example, should F-Institutions be justified based on the all-affected principle or on concerns of intergenerational justice and current generations’ noncompliance? Or are they not justifiable at all? Which concepts of democratic legitimacy can be applied to which kinds of F-Institutions, and with what outcomes?

-          Given the presentist bias in democracy, what kind of implementation strategies for F-Institutions should be chosen?

-          How can we evaluate the effectiveness of F-Institutions? Can we avoid unintended overshooting and underperformance by institutional design?

-          What can we learn from F-Institutions that have already been established and, if so, abolished?

-          Should considerations of risk and uncertainty have an influence on the design of F-Institutions? How legitimate is it to discount the future, and how can this be reflected in the institutional design?

-          Are there alternatives to F-Institutions to relieve tensions between intergenerational justice and democracy and to reduce democratic short-termism?

-          Should F-Institutions be established at the national level, the global level, both or neither?

-          How large should the policy remit be for F-Institutions? Should F-Institutions be concerned only with the most urgent global problems (e.g. pandemics, climate crisis) or also those issues which are arguably smaller and less wide in scope (e.g. flooding, debt, national pensions, domestic terrorism)?

-          How can we ensure F-Institutions are sufficiently flexible to deal with unanticipated future problems? To what extent should we leave the future open with respect to what future generations will value, in case we come to learn new things about morality and politics? How well can we anticipate what future generations will actually value?

Of course, alternative suggestions for sub-topics and/or questions to be addressed by interested participants will be both highly appreciated and likely accommodated.

In sum, this workshop aims to bring together moral, political, and legal theorists and practitioners interested in democracy, intergenerational justice, long-term decision-making and short-termism to discuss the various tensions associated with these concepts on both the theoretical and empirical levels.

How to apply:

If you are interested in participating in this workshop, then please submit an abstract prepared on any topic related to this workshop's broad theme of 'Democracy and Intergenerational Justice'. Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words, and should be suitable for a presentation of 30 minutes. After each presentation, there will be a Q&A of 20-30 minutes. The deadline for abstract submissions is 1st June 2020. We apply a rolling admissions system and aim to respond to your submission within a week.

Please ensure that all identifying information is removed from your abstract, as abstracts will be subject to a process of blind review. To submit your abstract, please send (i) the anonymised abstract in .doc or .pdf format, and (ii) a separate document containing author information (name, paper title, institutional affiliation, and email address), also in .doc or .pdf format, to [email protected].

If you are a current graduate student or an early-career scholar (someone who has submitted his/her PhD within the last 2 years), then please indicate so in your author information document as well.

Conference/Practical information:

This is now an all online panel. This year’s fees will be no more then 15 Pounds. The exact fee will be communicated shortly. The MANCEPT Organisers - Giacomo, Jeannine, Molly and Vittorio - will announce further details regarding registration nearer to the time.

*Please note that the MANCEPT organisers might have a different understanding of "early-career research" than our "early-career scholar" above. For any further questions about this and other more general conference/practical matters, please get in touch with the MANCEPT 2020 organisers at [email protected].

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June 30, 2020, 7:45pm BST

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Tyler John
University College, Cork
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