The Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften: Events
Thursday, 04 July 2019 - Friday, 05 July 2019
Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften, conference room
Research Center »Justitia Amplificata: Rethinking Justice« of Goethe University
Chiara Destri, Marcus Häggrot, Theodore Lechterman»New Adventures in Democratic Theory: Constituency, Duty, Technology«Chair
Chiara Destri (Ph.D. Political Theory, Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Group »Justitia Amplificata«),
Marcus Carlsen Häggrot (Ph.D. Political Theory, Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Group »Justitia Amplificata«),
Theodore M. Lechterman (Ph.D. Political Theory, Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Group »Justitia Amplificata«)
Normative democratic theory traditionally operates with an oversimplified model of democratic practice. Abstracting from complexity is essential for isolating core values. But further progress in democratic theory may require considering more complex models of political organization and behavior. When we ask what democratic theory requires for important aspects of contemporary political life, often the answer given by received views is highly indeterminate. And when we work out democratic principles for new or undertheorized phenomena, these principles sometimes force us to reconsider foundational pillars of the democratic ideal. This conference explores specific extensions of the democratic ideal to further reaches of social and political life. Besides stimulating new thinking about these areas, the conference hopes to encourage discussion on the metatheoretical question of what »high« political theory can learn from »mid-level« investigations.
Theme A: Electoral Constituencies: Definitions and Delimitations
Organizer: Marcus Häggrot
Electoral constituencies are central in shaping the experience of democratic politics. When a representative democracy’s parliamentary constituencies are defined in terms of residence (rather than profession, ethnicity, age, or some other variable) representatives have incentives to primarily serve local interests, and the constituencies’ residence-based character is likely to affect the outputs of the democratic process. The fact that the boundaries of territorial constituencies are drawn in one way rather than another can similarly mean that some constituencies are ‘safe seats’ for a particular candidate or party, and that the perspectives and interests of voters who favour another candidate or party are virtually never represented in the legislature. Accordingly, there are important normative questions to be asked both about the definition of constituencies – i.e. the manner in which citizens are grouped for the purpose of electing parliamentary representatives – and their delimitation – i.e. the manner in which the state determines the borders of residence-based constituencies.
Theme B: Citizens and the Duties of Democracy
Organizer: Chiara Destri
In democratic theory fundamental questions concerning the justification and value of democratic institutions, as well as their distinctive legitimacy, have always played a major role. Comparatively, much less attention has been paid to how citizens should act once democratic institutions are in place. Scholars have considered the kind of virtues that citizens ought to display in a deliberative setting, such as reasonableness or unfettered regard for the common good, but they have rarely addressed the duties that real-world citizens may have in contemporary representative and party-based democracies. One one hand, answering this question is necessary to flesh out properly the democratic intuition that citizens ought to be the authors of the laws they have to obey. On the other, such a bottom-up outlook might have compelling implications about which democratic institutions are justified and why. The aim of this panel is therefore to turn the light on citizens’ agency and the duties they may have qua citizens under actual democratic institutions.
Theme C: Democracy and Technology
Organizer: Ted Lechterman
Technologists and philosophers alike are now sounding alarms about the risks that artificial intelligence poses to human existence and distributive justice. Less often and less clearly have scholars in this area articulated the challenges that artificial intelligence poses to democratic governance. The development of artificial intelligence threatens to take more and more social decisions out of human hands. Under what conditions should this be welcomed or resisted? A related issue concerns the public power of technology corporations that design products around which we organize so much of our lives. Besides the obvious concerns about privacy and security, these developments raise larger questions about the power to referee the public sphere, the power to distribute essential resources, and the power to shape cultural norms. Under what conditions is it desirable to grant technology producers greater authority on these matters? Under what conditions, and by what means, should this authority be restricted? By engaging these kinds of questions, this panel aims to consider how the value of democracy ought to inform the regulation and operation of technological production.
You can download the program here.
Advance registration is required: Office-Justitia@uni-frankfurt.de