Affections and Ethics Seminar

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Alessandro Ferrara, “Democracy and Openness: Rethinking the Affective Infrastructure of Democracy”

Democracy may well be a victim of its own success. Nearly half of humanity lives in one of the ninety democracies counted by Freedom House, and many who live in the other half also do aspire to democracy, but processes of de-democratization affect the countries where democracy has existed for longer. It has never been so difficult – in those countries as well as in the new democracies – to sort out real democracies from elective oligarchies. Can rules and procedures alone account for the difference? Because they can always be imitated and enervated, it makes sense to also look at the ethos, understood as the affective, dispositional infrastructure that a flourishing democracy requires. After reconstructing the received view of the democratic affective infrastructure as an orientation toward the common good, equality and individuality (the legacy of Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Emerson, Thoreau, Dewey and Rawls), the new disposition toward openness will be argued to enable late-modern societies to better meet the new challenges for democracy in the 21st century.

Alessandro Ferrara is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, and former president of the Italian Association for Political Philosophy. Educated at Berkeley and in Frankfurt, he is the author of Reflective Authenticity (1998), Justice and Judgment (1999), Force of the Example (2008). He has a new book forthcoming in April 2014 with Cambridge University Press: The Democratic Horizon: Hyperpluralism and the Renewal of Political Liberalism.

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Affections and Ethics

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