Political Progress: Piecemeal, Pragmatic, and Processual

In Julia Christ, Kristina Lepold, Daniel Loick & Titus Stahl (eds.), Debating Critical Theory: Engagements with Axel Honneth. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 269-286 (2020)
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Are we witnessing progress or regress in the recent increasing popularity and electoral success of populist politicians and parties in consolidated democratic nations? ... Is the innovative use of popular referendum in Great Britain to settle fundamental constitutional questions a progressive or regressive innovation? ... Similarly, is the increasing use of constituent assemblies to change constitutions across the world evidence of progress in democratic constitutionalism, or, a worryingly regressive change back toward unmediated popular majoritarianism? ... This paper reflects on some of the perils and promise of framing such questions with the conceptual couplet of progress and regress. It considers four compelling critiques of the use of ‘progress’ and its cognates in sociopolitical theory, as well as arguing that such concepts are nevertheless ineliminable for our normative theories. The paper concludes by suggesting that we can avoid the most serious problems by employing only conceptions of political progress and regress that are piecemeal, pragmatic, and processual.

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Christopher Zurn
University of Massachusetts, Boston


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