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Samuel Bagg
University of South Carolina
  1. Realism Against Legitimacy.Samuel Bagg - 2022 - Social Theory and Practice 48 (1):29-60.
    This article challenges the association between realist methodology and ideals of legitimacy. Many who seek a more “realistic” or “political” approach to political theory replace the familiar orientation towards a state of justice with a structurally similar orientation towards a state of legitimacy. As a result, they fail to provide more reliable practical guidance, and wrongly displace radical demands. Rather than orienting action towards any state of affairs, I suggest that a more practically useful approach to political theory would directly (...)
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  2. Can Deliberation Neutralise Power?Samuel Bagg - 2018 - European Journal of Political Theory 17 (3):257-279.
    Most democratic theorists agree that concentrations of wealth and power tend to distort the functioning of democracy and ought to be countered wherever possible. Deliberative democrats are no exception: though not its only potential value, the capacity of deliberation to ‘neutralise power’ is often regarded as ‘fundamental’ to deliberative theory. Power may be neutralised, according to many deliberative democrats, if citizens can be induced to commit more fully to the deliberative resolution of common problems. If they do, they will be (...)
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  3. Beyond the Search for the Subject: An Anti-Essentialist Ontology for Liberal Democracy.Samuel Bagg - 2021 - European Journal of Political Theory 20 (2):208-231.
    Reading Foucault’s work on power and subjectivity alongside “developmentalist” approaches to evolutionary biology, this article endorses poststructuralist critiques of political ideals grounded in the value of subjective agency. Many political theorists embrace such critiques, of course, but those who do are often skeptical of liberal democracy, and even of normative theory itself. By contrast, those who are left to theorize liberal democracy tend to reject or ignore poststructuralist insights, and have continued to employ dubious ontological assumptions regarding human agents. Against (...)
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  4. The Power of the Multitude: Answering Epistemic Challenges to Democracy.Samuel Bagg - 2018 - American Political Science Review 4 (112):891-904.
    Recent years have witnessed growing controversy over the “wisdom of the multitude.” As epistemic critics drawing on vast empirical evidence have cast doubt on the political competence of ordinary citizens, epistemic democrats have offered a defense of democracy grounded largely in analogies and formal results. So far, I argue, the critics have been more convincing. Nevertheless, democracy can be defended on instrumental grounds, and this article demonstrates an alternative approach. Instead of implausibly upholding the epistemic reliability of average voters, I (...)
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  5.  57
    An Adversarial Ethics of Campaigns and Elections.Samuel Bagg & Isak Tranvik - 2019 - Perspectives on Politics 4 (17):973-987.
    Existing approaches to campaign ethics fail to adequately account for the “arms races” incited by competitive incentives in the absence of effective sanctions for destructive behaviors. By recommending scrupulous devotion to unenforceable norms of honesty, these approaches require ethical candidates either to quit or lose. To better understand the complex dilemmas faced by candidates, therefore, we turn first to the tradition of “adversarial ethics,” which aims to enable ethical participants to compete while preventing the most destructive excesses of competition. As (...)
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  6. When Will a Darwinian Approach Be Useful for the Study of Society?Samuel Bagg - 2017 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 16 (3):259-281.
    In recent years, some have claimed that a Darwinian perspective will revolutionize the study of human society and culture. This project is viewed with disdain and suspicion, on the other hand, by many practicing social scientists. This article seeks to clear the air in this heated debate by dissociating two claims that are too often assumed to be inseparable. The first is the ‘ontological’ claim that Darwinian principles apply, at some level of abstraction, to human society and culture. The second (...)
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  7. Between Critical and Normative Theory.Samuel Bagg - 2016 - Political Research Quarterly 69:1-12.
    Over the last decade, a call for greater “realism” in political theory has challenged the goals and methods that are implicit in much contemporary “normative” theory. However, realists have yet to produce a convincing alternative research program that is “constructive” rather than primarily “critical” in nature. I argue that given their common wariness of a devotion to abstract principles, realists should consider adopting John Dewey’s vision of theoretical expertise as an expansive kind of prediction that engages all of our historical, (...)
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  8. Preaching to the Choir: Rhetoric and Identity in a Polarized Age.Samuel Bagg & Rob Goodman - forthcoming - Journal of Politics.
    How might discourse generate political change? So far, democratic theorists have focused largely on how deliberative exchanges might shift political opinion. Responding to empirical research that casts doubt on the generalizability of deliberative mechanisms outside of carefully designed forums, this essay seeks to broaden the scope of discourse theory by considering speech that addresses participants’ identities instead. More specifically, we ask what may be learned about identity-oriented discourse by examining the practice of religious preaching. As we demonstrate, scholars of homiletics—the (...)
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  9. Intra‐Party Democracy: A Functionalist Account.Samuel Bagg & Udit Bhatia - 2022 - Wiley: Journal of Political Philosophy 30 (3):347-369.
    This paper articulates a functionalist account of intra-party democracy (IPD). Like realist critics, we insist that IPD practices be evaluated on the basis of whether they facilitate resistance to domination and capture at the level of the polity as a whole, and therefore accept certain realist worries about IPD. Yet realists neglect the possibility that wealthy interests could control the political agenda by capturing all viable parties simultaneously-and that mass-facing IPD could counter this threat of oligarchic agenda capture. Taking this (...)
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  10.  80
    Fighting Power with Power: The Administrative State as a Weapon Against Concentrated Private Power.Samuel Bagg - 2021 - Social Philosophy and Policy 1 (38):220-243.
    Contemporary critics of the administrative state are right to highlight the dangers of vesting too much power in a centralized bureaucracy removed from popular oversight and accountability. Too often neglected in this literature, however, are the dangers of vesting too little power in a centralized state, which enables dominant groups to further expand their social and economic advantages through decentralized means. This article seeks to synthesize these concerns, understanding them as reflecting the same underlying danger of state capture. It then (...)
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  11. Book Review: Democratic Equality, by James Lindley Wilson. [REVIEW]Samuel Bagg - 2021 - Political Theory 49 (3):517-522.
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  12.  85
    Do We Need an Anti-Oligarchic Constitution? [REVIEW]Samuel Bagg - 2021 - European Journal of Political Theory 21 (2):399-411.
    Camila Vergara’s Systemic Corruption is an extraordinarily rich, provocative and original work of political theory, which makes several compelling interventions in the normative literature. It deve...
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    Fighting Power with Power: The Administrative State as a Weapon Against Concentrated Private Power.Samuel Bagg - 2021 - Social Philosophy and Policy 38 (1):220-243.
    Contemporary critics of the administrative state are right to highlight the dangers of vesting too much power in a centralized bureaucracy removed from popular oversight and accountability. Too often neglected in this literature, however, are the dangers of vesting too little power in a centralized state, which enables dominant groups to further expand their social and economic advantages through decentralized means. This article seeks to synthesize these concerns, understanding them as reflecting the same underlying danger of state capture. It then (...)
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