Sliding toward “semi-fascism”

President Biden's September 1 speech on the political threats posed to our democracy by the language and actions of far-right GOP leaders and elected officials was entirely on the mark. As scholars of the history of fascism have noted, many of the characteristics of fascism are indeed currently present in GOP language and goals. The …

Resisting authoritarian populism

The rise of an organized effort to create an authoritarian right-wing government in the United States is palpable. Unhinged Republican elected officials call for political violence and "civil war"; an ideological and Christian-nationalist Supreme Court moves forward unhesitatingly in attacking long-established and fundamental rights, including rights of reproductive freedom; Republican-controlled state houses enact ever-more restrictive …

A topology of political theories?

We sometimes think of political philosophies as falling on a spectrum from left to right. Bernie Sanders is on the left and Greg Abbott is on the right. Our mental map might perhaps look something like this: However, a moment's reflection shows that this scheme doesn't really work. There isn't a single dimension along which …

Factions, insurrections, and the Federalist Papers

Sometimes political philosophers think of the The Federalist Papers as fairly minor contributions to the history of political theory -- time-bound, parochial, and written by colonial bumpkins who couldn't really hold a candle to Locke or Hobbes. When addressed at all, they are often used simply as evidence about the "original intent" of various constitutional provisions in …

Inclusivity as a democratic goal

Many organizations express the goal of embracing diversity and inclusiveness. This is an admirable goal, but it is often only weakly pursued in practical terms. Efforts towards this end will be stronger in enhancing diversity and inclusiveness if we think carefully about what we have in mind when we think of that better future we …

Explaining GOP behavior

If only Chuck Tilly were still with us ... I'd give a lot to hear his interpretation of the behavior of GOP officials throughout large swaths of the country, in state governments and in Congress. But I'd like to hear from Cicero, Machiavelli, and Hannah Arendt as well. Perhaps only theorists who have witnessed the …

Conservative and progressive forms of democracy

An earlier post suggested that we cannot really address the issue of the stability of liberal democracy without considering issues of economic justice as well.  It is worth separating the features of a modern society into the "liberal democratic" cluster and the "social democratic" cluster for a reason that is familiar from Rawls (Justice as …

Social democracy, unbridled capitalism, and right-wing populism

An earlier post raised the question of popular support for -- satisfaction with -- the state of democracy in many democratic nations. It was noted that levels of satisfaction are low in many democracies -- US, UK, France, and Spain, for example (link). There I defined liberal democracy in these terms: a political system in …

Making the case for liberal democracy

Recent posts have considered the question of whether liberal democracy is stable, or whether the assaults on liberal democracy by the populist far-right are likely to further undermine democratic institutions and values. In particular, I have considered the question of whether democracy generates its own supporting political psychology (as Rawls seems to believe), with citizens …

The moral force of the US Constitution

Why should we revere our constitution as the fundamental set of political and moral principles underlying our democracy? Is it simply because it was written and adopted by the “Framers”? Is it because it has legitimacy as a whole by having been democratically ratified through our history? Or, most fundamentally, is it because there are …

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