Political Studies Review (PSR) provides a unique intellectual space for rigorous high-quality peer-reviewed original research across political science and the study of politics in related fields that aims at stimulating wide-ranging debate and cutting edge discussion of current disputes and issues in the discipline within the UK and internationally.
“Democratic innovations such as citizens’ assemblies are commonly conceptualized from a deliberative democratic perspective. Here, citizens come together to deliberate political issues and jointly develop solutions. While this perspective is important, the wide range of democratic theories has much more to offer” – says dr Hans Asenbahm.
Hans Asenbaum is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. His work focuses on new forms of democratic engagement and radical democratic politics.
We are happy to announce, that the PSR Best Paper Award for 2021 goes to Prof. Jacob S. Lewis (Corruption Perceptions and Contentious Politics in Africa: How Different Types of Corruption Have Shaped Africa’s Third Wave of Protest).
This excellent article asks the following question: Does corruption increase general and anti-government protests? As the author claims scholarship has produced seemingly incompatible results, with some research demonstrating a strong connection between corruption and the onset of contentious politics and other research finding that heightened perceptions of corruption decrease activism.
The article addresses this puzzle by examining how different types of corruption condition diverging contentious outcomes. Focusing on two highly salient forms of corruption in the African context—elite corruption and police corruption—this article argues that the different consequences, salience, and costs associated with these two forms help to condition whether citizens rise up or stay home.
This argument is tested via two methods. First, it draws from a survey experiment conducted in five Nigerian states in 2017. The survey experiment tests whether exposure to different types of corruption affects willingness to join in protests. Second, it draws from statistical analysis of geo-located perceptions of corruption and protest across Africa, incorporating checks for both collinearity and endogeneity into the model. The statistical analysis examines whether heightened perceptions of corruption correlate with increased counts of general and anti-government protests. The results from both methods demonstrate that elite corruption is positively correlated with protest, whereas police corruption is not.
Daniel Bertram holds an LLB in Global Law and a BSc in Public Governance from Tilburg University, where he also worked as a research assistant at the Department for Public Law and Governance. He is currently affiliated with the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.
His research interests lie at the intersection between law and governance, with a particular focus on the influence of globalization on international and domestic institutions
“Ostensibly ambitious moral values may have regressive ideological functions. It is not hard to see how moralist legitimation narratives about freedom, equality, and human rights have provided ideological support for Western interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere” – says Ben Cross in this interview. You can learn more about normativity, moralism and realism in his PSR article, Normativity in Realist Legitimacy.
PSR: What are the key distinctions between moralist and realist views on normativity and legitimacy that you identify?
I think the fundamental difference stems from views about the epistemic merits of morality.
Realists seem to be committed to the view that:
some or all of what is usually called ‘morality’ – call it “S-morality” – rests on epistemically dubious assumptions.
at a minimum, S-morality includes what Bernard Williams calls “the morality system” (which is especially concerned with the notion of moral obligation and the assignment of responsibility and blame), as well as most of the moral principles that moralist theories of legitimacy typically appeal to.
Moralists will at least reject ii), and possibly also i).
In light of i) and ii), realists take themselves to have reason to ensure that their normative claims – including their normative claims about legitimacy – do not appeal to S-morality.
How do realists set their standards of politics, while not appealing to a “morality that is prior to politics”?
Realists typically make one of two non-mutually exclusive moves here. First, they claim that politics is conceptually distinct from certain other kinds of human interaction such as war or terror. Second, they claim that the practice of political institutions seems somewhat teleologically geared towards certain purposes, notably providing stability and facilitating collective decision-making.
Each of these two moves can be used to identify standards of “good politics”. For example, if politics is teleologically geared towards providing stability, then it might be claimed that one important standard for assessing the goodness of political order is its stability.
Neither of these two moves appeals to any kind of morality. But note also that, by themselves, they are not obviously normative at all. They might help us identify what counts as “good politics”, but they don’t clearly explain why we have a reason to pursue “good politics”.
What are the pillars of a moralist critique of a realist critique of the morality system? Is there any universal model of morality that it refers to?
Perhaps the most common moralist objection to realism is that the various theories of “good politics” that realists propose can only have normative force if they appeal to morality. By itself, this objection does not fault realists for failing to embrace any particular universal model of morality. Rather, it faults them for being inconsistent. If the objection is correct, realists can make normative judgments or avoid appealing to morality, but they can’t do both.
I think realists can respond to this objection in one of two ways. First, they can argue that there are certain forms of morality that are not S-morality, and hold that the normative force of their ideas of “good politics” can be explained in terms of these forms of morality. Second, they can argue that their normative force can be explained without reference to any kind of morality at all. For example, perhaps “good politics” is instrumentally valuable: it helps us get what we want.
Williams-premise holds that there is a conceptual distinction between politics and war, and that this conceptual distinction can only be maintained if we suppose that politics takes the form of legitimate politics. It thus identifies “good politics” with political legitimacy
What’s the idea behind of a so-called “Williams-premise”?
What I call the Williams-premise emphasises the first of the two moves I referred to in my answer to the second question. It holds that there is a conceptual distinction between politics and war and that this conceptual distinction can only be maintained if we suppose that politics takes the form of legitimate politics. It thus identifies “good politics” with political legitimacy.
A challenge for realists who accept the Williams-premise is to then explain why political legitimacy is something that is desirable. Without such an explanation, it is unclear that these realists can articulate a theory of legitimacy that is normative.
You mention ‘concessive realism’ as well as ‘naturalist realism’ – would you elaborate on the differences between these two approaches?
Concessive realism responds to the above challenge by narrowing its aims. It holds that realism only aims to establish the truth of the Williams-premise without appealing to morality. It is content to delegate the task of explaining the desirability of political legitimacy to morality.
Naturalist realism, unlike concessive realism, seeks to show that political legitimacy is desirable without thereby appealing to S-morality. It tries to do this by asserting what I call the “naturalist premise”: avoiding politics is not a real option for human being because politics is necessary to secure certain basic goods that we all desire for ourselves.
Ostensibly ambitious moral values may have regressive ideological functions. It is not hard to see how moralist legitimation narratives about freedom, equality, and human rights have provided ideological support for Western interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
How would you define the realist approaches to legitimacy with, for instance, the current situation in Afghanistan? How would it differ from a moralist approach?
Here is a crude but potentially helpful way of illustrating things.
I think moralists, most of whom are liberals, would likely view the recently collapsed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as legitimate because it embodied certain important liberal democratic moral norms (albeit imperfectly). For example, it had a broadly liberal constitution, and it gave citizens the right to vote. Realists, however, would likely be more inclined to regard it as suffering from a severe legitimation deficit, simply because it never fully succeeded in creating stable political order or obtaining sufficient support from its citizens.
By contrast, I expect most moralists would regard the recently re-established Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (i.e. the Taliban government) as necessarily illegitimate because it does not, by and large, embody liberal moral values. Realists, however, would hold that it could conceivably become legitimate, even though it rejects liberal moral values if it were to implement stable political order and provide citizens with a justification for its power that generally makes sense to them. Admittedly, this “if” appears likely to be counterfactual.
Are there any other practical examples that would help us to understand a major difference between the two approaches?
The above example may create the impression that realists are more pessimistic than moralists about what is politically possible and are thus willing to settle for less ambitious political goods. There is a sense in which this might be true. Stable political order is a necessary condition for people to have access to basic goods, services and protections. Its existence is clearly very important to citizens’ interests. Risking political stability in order to pursue liberal reforms may endanger these interests.
However, there are at least two points to bear in mind which may complicate this impression. First, stable political order is often a very demanding goal. Marxists, for example, may claim that capitalism is inherently unstable and that the only route to lasting political stability goes through proletarian revolution. Second, ostensibly ambitious moral values may have regressive ideological functions. It is not hard to see how moralist legitimation narratives about freedom, equality, and human rights have provided ideological support for Western interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
What are the key contributions your article brings to the field?
My article has more mundane and modest goals than my answer to the previous question would suggest. It takes a step towards showing how realist theories of legitimacy can be internally consistent – that is, they can be normative without relying on S-morality. It may also help us better understand what the underlying motivating concern of realist theories of legitimacy is. Why should we care about political legitimacy? What needs, interests, or desires are served by having political institutions that are legitimate, rather than illegitimate? Answers to these questions may further enable us to see what place the concept of political legitimacy might have in political philosophy and the extent to which it is a concept worthy of continuing analysis and application.
“We find that Democrats are significantly less likely to support a candidate that faces such allegations. Republicans do not strongly penalize candidates facing allegations of sexual assault or harassment, especially if the candidate is identified as a Republican” – Stephanie Stark speaks about a study, she conducted with Sofía Collignon, analysing the effect that allegations of sexual assault or harassment have on the electoral success of American politicians.
Stephanie Stark obtained her Master’s in Media, Power and Public Affairs from the Department of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London (2018). She is a digital communications strategist who has been advising on and creating digital media campaigns for non-profit organizations, political campaigns and elected officials in New York and London for a decade.
Dr Sofia Collignonis a Lecturer in Political Communication at the Department of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is Co Investigator in the ESCR-funded Representative Audit of Britain project, part of Parliamentary Candidates UK and Principal Investigator in the Survey of Local Candidates in England. Her main research focuses on include the study of candidates, elections and parties, in particular on the harassment and intimidation of political elites and violence against women in politics.
Listen to the PSA Annual Lecture 2021: Frozen Out? Political Science in a Heating World with Professor Robyn Eckersley from the University of Melbourne, chaired by Emma Vardy. The event took online on Tuesday 2nd November 2021 at 7 pm GMT.
As organisers explain:
This lecture will draw out what is at stake at COP26 in Glasgow against the backdrop of the larger civilisational challenge of global heating. It will offer some reflections on the impact and role of political science and what it has to offer in the face of this challenge.
Professor Eckersley’s lecture will be followed by a Q&A session where audience members will be able to participate by submitting their questions for discussion.
Professor Robyn Eckersley is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor in the Discipline of Political Science, School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia since 2007. She has published widely in the fields of environmental politics, political theory and international relations with a special focus on the ethics, politics and governance of climate change.