What is Democratic Theory? A New Special Issue

A new special issue of the journal Democratic Theory, co-edited with Jean-Paul Gagnon and Hans Asenbaum, tackles the question of “What is democratic theory?”. It is a surprisingly infrequently posed question in the field. With contributions from Michael Saward, John Keane, Carole Pateman, Graham Smith and many others.

What is democratic theory? The question is surprisingly infrequently posed. Indeed, the last time this precise question appears in the academic archive was exactly forty years ago, in James Alfred Pennock’s (1979) book Democratic Political Theory. This is an odd discursive silence not observable in other closely aligned fields of thought such as political theory, political science, social theory, philosophy, economic theory, and public policy/administration – each of which have asked the “what is” question of themselves on regular occasion. The premise of this special issue is, therefore, to pose the question anew and break this forty-year silence. It brings together a selection of articles from scholars working in different traditions of democratic theory to do so.


What Is Democratic Theory? By: Rikki Dean, Jean-Paul Gagnon, and Hans Asenbaum Pages: v–xx


Theorizing about Democracy By: Michael Saward Pages: 1–11

What Are We Doing When We Are Doing Democratic Theory? By: Dannica Fleuß and Gary S. Schaal Pages: 12–26

Democratic Theory When Democracy Is Fugitive By: Ali Aslam, David McIvor, and Joel Alden Schlosser Pages: 27–40

Systematizing Democratic Systems Approaches: Seven Conceptual Building Blocks By: Rikki Dean, Jonathan Rinne, and Brigitte Geissel Pages: 41–57

Democratic Theory as Social Codification By: Christian Ewert and Marion Repetti Pages: 58–69

Assessing Democracy In Vitro, In Vivo, and In Actu and the Role of Democratic Theory Today By: Anastasia Deligiaouri and Jane Suiter Pages: 70–84

Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice: Democratic Theory through an Agonistic Lens By: Marie Paxton Pages: 85–95

Critical commentary

Why History Matters for Democracy By: John Keane Pages: 96–110


Reflecting on Fifty Years of Democratic Theory Carole Pateman in Conversation with Graham Smith Pages: 111–120

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