REDEM (I). Democratic Ethics and Politics

Notes from the conference Reconstructing Democracy in Times of Crisis: A Voter-Centred Perspective, organized by SciencesPo/CEVIPOF, and held in Paris, France, on 5 and 6 February 2020. More notes on this event: redem2020

Martial Foucault. The rise of populism and the collapse of the left-right paradigm

Politics of 2 new axes provides a comprehensive framework to understand anti-system forces in France, Europe and the USA:

  • Low life satisfaction and distrust in institutions are common to anti-system voters.
  • Interpersonal trust: split between radical left/right votes.

Determinants:

  • Life satisfaction and distrust in institutions: highly correlated to economic insecurity.
  • Interpersonal trust: mobility and loneliness in post-industrial societies

Policy consequences:

  • Redistribution and inequality. But part of the poor vote for anti-redistribute platforms.
  • Policies to boost generalized trust and fight loneliness at work and in remote territories (e.g. post Yellow Vests recommendations.

Annabelle Lever, CEVIPOF/Sciences Po

It is crucial that young people vote just so they can have some sense of ownership on elections, not only (though also) to legitimise the results of elections.

The design of electoral processes is not neutral. Not only it can radically change the results of elections, but also the perception about its fairness and how it considers the different profiles of voters.

Political scientists and their obsession with targeting has led to an alienating way of doing politics. People are aware of being targeted, of being manipulated. And they are sick of it.

Valeria Ottonelli, University of Genoa. Citizens’ political prudence and the ethics of voting

Prudence is the practical virtue that guides us in deliberating about the right course of action and acting accordingly, having in mind the science of the good and the particular circumstances ans stakes involved (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, book 6).

We need to theorize political prudence so that it is compatible with other political principles such as passion, responsibility, etc. And taking into account numbers, pluralism or the relation between individual and collective virtues.

The ethics of voting as an exercise of political prudence. Political prudence concerns the ethics of voting, demonstrating, deliberating, etc. The ethics of voting of a liberal democracy should be pluralistic, in the sense of plurality of considerations, and allowing different voters to state their preferences.

Carys Roberts, Institute for Public Policy Research

The system based on two major parties is in clear decline in the UK.

The income gap has widened in recent times, and this has had an impact on voting turnout. There was a hope on increased turnout in youth, but it has not turned out to be true.

Devolution of power to communities is a way to be explored when it comes to thinking in ways to strengthen democracy.

Discussion

José Luis Martí: maybe we have been focusing to much on elections and not on other ways of political involvement: organizing elections but also being involved on policy-making or design of public policies, etc.

Chiara Destri: how the ethics of voting affects legitimacy? Annabelle Lever: treating people as rulers, not only as voters has an important impact. This includes how parties recruit and promote members. Politics have become professional in a very narrow point of view: middle class, highly educated, etc. losing plurality and the grassroots components.

Ludvig Beckman: are duties of voters compatible with prudence? can our duty be not to exercise prudence? Valeria Ottonelli: there are examples, as not selling your vote, are a duty and are related to prudence.

Miljan Slavic: how do we interpret not participating in elections or voting with blank or null votes? Some of them are actually being critical with the system and saying it is not legitimate. How do we interpret all of them? Annabelle Lever: one should assume the worst, that people are disgusted with the system, or the candidates, or the whole thing.

Ismael Peña-López: we keep on insisting on how to engage youth, how to engage minorities, how to engage women, etc. in electoral participation. But we should not forget the other side of the equation: how do we make politicians more accountable, how do we make institutions more understandable, how to we make politics in general more transparent and honest, etc. We are in the middle of a paradox: as the world grew more complex, we shifted from direct to representative democracy; but now that the world is becoming even more complex, we demand that citizens are more informed and more engaged in politics; but, not to go back to direct democracy, but to “vote better”. Why not leveraging the effort we are demanding to citizens to improve decision making by letting them participate in deliberative or direct democracy instruments? Why not demand less to citizens and demand more instead to democratic institutions to reduce the complexity of the world for the citizens?

Reconstructing Democracy in Times of Crisis: A Voter-Centred Perspective (2020)

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