International Law: Why Do Democracies Embrace it?

International Law and Democracies International is a riddle for the political theorist. It exists despite the absence of any formal state or government. So, not only is there no international body to enforce its edicts, but it lacks any formal institution to promulgate its laws. It bypasses the notion of sovereignty traditional democratic theory depended... Continue Reading →

Justice is an Option

Justice is an Option Rarely do I read a book that leads me to think differently about economics, but Robert Meister’s effort to quantify the price of historical justice has done exactly that. His latest book, Justice is an Option, builds on the debates surrounding distributive justice. It builds on the work of John Rawls,... Continue Reading →

How Western Europe Embraced Democracy

Western Europe's Democratic Age Over the last few years it has almost become cliché to refer to the democratic recession. Many of the most fragile democracies have reversed or even collapsed. Among the most recent involves the collapse of the government in Afghanistan due to the withdrawal of American troops. The experience serves as a... Continue Reading →

Constitutions and Democracy

Constitutions In October 2020 Chileans made the monumental decision to rewrite their constitution. Many view this as a democratizing event despite the fact that Chile democratized in 1990 with the negotiated transition from the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Nevertheless, the transition to democracy was widely considered as incomplete at the time, because the Pinochet... Continue Reading →

Rural Consciousness as Political Identity

Rural consciousness has redefined the nature of identity politics as it shifts the dominant political conflicts from class to place. This is the second part of a series on political identity and its place within democratic theory. Rural Communities in Political Conflicts The divide between those dependent on an agricultural economy and an industrial economy... Continue Reading →

Meritocratic Ideals Can Undermine Democracy

Michael Sandel describes the meritocratic ideal as a dystopian aspiration in The Tyranny of Merit. Justin Kempf reflects on this book and considers how meritocratic ambitions can undermine democratic governance. What is Justice Justice is an ideal divided between claims of inequality and equality. Philosophers as early as Plato and Aristotle defined it as what each... Continue Reading →

Working Class Political Identities

Only in the last ten years have scholars begun to think of the working class as a political identity rather than simply an economic status. The thoughts below are the first on a series of posts based on political identity. Justin Kempf reflects on working class as a political identity through a reflection of Arlie Russell... Continue Reading →

Does Inequality Hinder Economic Growth?

Thomas Piketty argues economic inequality is an obstacle for economic growth in his latest book Capital and Ideology. Justin Kempf reflects on the implications of this idea as he works to develop his own ideas of economics compatible with a political theory of democracy. An Institutional Theory of Economics It has never been clear for me... Continue Reading →

Populist Logic and Populist Mindset

A populist logic is necessary to understand the populist mindset. Justin Kempf reflects on Ernesto Laclau's classic On Populist Reason to construct a sense of logic within a largely illogical political mindset.  What is Populism? Populism implies widespread support. It indicates popular public policies. So it may come as a surprise populists do not always win... Continue Reading →

Political Party Trajectories in the United States

The trajectory of each political party in the United States depends on a variety of factors. Some involve factors outside their control, but others involve decisions and strategies made over long periods of time. E.E. Schattschneider offered an important analysis of American politics in 1960 in his classic work The Semi-Sovereign People. Justin Kempf reflects on... Continue Reading →

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