03 June 2010

CFP: Democracy, History, Universality: Beyond the Decline of the West

Sixth General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), University of Iceland, Reykjavik, 25-27 August 2011

Call for panels and papers for a section on "Democracy, History, Universality: Beyond the Decline of the West"


Description: "The global debate about the universal significance of democracy represents one of the defining features of our time. Democracy is accepted by nearly everyone as the only legitimate form of government. At the same time, the appeal of the democratic values is weakened both by an ever greater degree of alienation between the population and the democratic institutions in the quintessentially democratic societies of Europe and North America and by the fact that in the more peripheral countries the pro-democracy rhetoric is often cynically used to justify some of the most undemocratic decisions and practices.

"Another crucial dimension of the debate is the increasing recognition that liberal democracy is indeed rooted in the historical experience and cultural particularity of the West. This tension between universalism and particularism has several dimensions. In Europe, it is reflected in the clash between universalist ambitions associated with the European democratic model and the rise of xenophobic politics that strive to redefine Europe in cultural or religious terms. At the same time, accepting the fact that democracy is historically conditioned immediately opens it up to the relativist challenge.

"The western community is often accused of monopolising the power to define what democracy means in political practice, which arguably exposes the Eurocentric nature of democracy promotion undertaken by democratic governments. Political leaders of many nations that explicitly define themselves as non-western now offer their respective political regimes as possible alternative models of democratic development. These claims have to be taken seriously despite their underlying instrumental motives, because what makes them possible in the first place are genuine grassroots concerns about western unilateralism, shared by many people all over the world.

"The panels within this section will be focused around the tension between the supposedly universal value of democracy and its embeddedness in a particular historical experience. The following questions will be discussed, among others: Can we think of truly universal democracy, or must the universal, as some theorists argue, be cleared of any positive predicates? What is happening to the idea of the West as a model democratic community? Does the universal appeal of the European idea give way to xenophobic particularism? What are the consequences of the internal tensions within the West and external challenges to its alleged domination? Can the criticism of democracy as 'too western' pave the way towards truly generic emancipation of humankind?"

Instructions on how to submit proposals for panels and papers are to be found here:


Currently, only proposals for panels will be accepted. Proposals for papers can be submitted from 1 November 2010, when a list of the panels accepted for this section will be published on the ECPR website. All proposals are to be submitted online.

Deadline for panel proposals: 1 September 2010

Deadline for paper proposals: 1 February 2011

For further information, please contact the section convenors:
Viatcheslav Morozov (University of Tartu): viacheslav.morozov@ut.ee
Christopher S. Browning (University of Warwick): c.s.browning@warwick.ac.uk
Pertti Joenniemi (Danish Institute for International Studies): pjo@diis.dk

Please note that conference participants may only appear in the academic programme once in any one capacity. That is, they may only chair one section, they may only chair one panel, they may only present one paper, they may only act once as a discussant.

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