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What is wrong with agonistic pluralism?: Reflections on conflict in democratic theory
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
2009 (English)In: Philosophy & Social Criticism, ISSN 0191-4537, E-ISSN 1461-734X, Vol. 35, no 9, 1039-1062 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

During the last couple of decades, concurrently with an increased awareness of the complexity of ethical conflicts, political theorists have directed attention to how constitutional democracy should cope with a fact of incommensurable doctrines. Poststructuralists such as Chantal Mouffe claim that ethical conflicts are fundamentally irreconcilable, which is indeed a view shared by many liberal theorists. The question of whether ethical conflicts are in principle irreconcilable is an important one since the answer has implications for what democratic institutions are desirable. In light of this question the article investigates the notion of conflict in agonistic pluralism and discourse theory. At first glance, Mouffe's agonism seems apt to accommodate ethical conflict in democratic governance, since it focuses on conflict as the core of politics, whereas Habermasian deliberative democracy seems inappropriate for this task, as it focuses on consensus. However, through an inquiry into the conditions of conflict this article will argue the opposite, namely, that conflict cannot be adequately understood within Mouffe's agonistic framework. The thesis defended is (1) that discourse theory offers a more accurate account of conflict than agonistic theory because it embraces the idea that deliberation is constitutive of conflict, and (2) that some of Habermas' assumptions concerning ethical discourse need to be revised in order for his democratic theory to fully accommodate this insight.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 35, no 9, 1039-1062 p.
Keyword [en]
agonistic pluralism, communicative action, discourse theory, ethical conflict, Jurgen Habermas, Chantal Mouffe
National Category
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-59654DOI: 10.1177/0191453709343385ISI: 000270904700002OAI: diva2:432240
Democracy Beyond the Nation State? Transnational Actors and Global Governance (Transdemos)
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond

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Available from: 2011-08-02 Created: 2011-07-05 Last updated: 2014-04-15Bibliographically approved

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