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NEGAtive REpresentation: Ostracism, Recall and Negative Voting as Electoral Innovations Against Extremism

Final Report Summary - NEGARE (NEGAtive REpresentation: Ostracism, Recall and Negative Voting as Electoral Innovations Against Extremism)

The goal of NEGARE was to compose a conceptual history of ‘negative representation’, i.e. the idea and process of removing through active democratic selection elected individuals or candidates from their positions of power. In other words, the aim was to re-think representation not from the usual viewpoint as a process of selecting ‘the best’ to govern, but from the reverse perspective as a process of removing ‘the worst’-performing governors. More specifically, the project examined three applied instances of negative political representation:
1) ostracism, the practice of expelling a political figure from ancient Greek city-states for ten years by decision of the demos;
2) recall elections, the removal of a public official through direct vote before the end of their term of office, practiced at present locally in the United States and generally in the Americas;
3) negative voting, the registration, counting and weighing of expressly negative votes alongside positive ones in regular elections.
Contrary to traditional electoral procedures, which focus on the registration of positive preferences, these three examples of reverse election broaden the scope of democratic choice by offering the chance to register negative preferences.
In terms of research implementation, the first objective of the project was to frame the concept of negative representation in the context of ongoing theoretical debates about political representation, democratic participation and the control of anti-democratic politics. The second objective was to discuss the historical use, consequences and interpretation of ostracism and recall elections. The third objective was to discuss the relevance of choosing negative representation institutions for modern-day European democracies.
In addition to producing four research articles linked to the scientific theme, the project also involved individual training, and specifically five distinct technical goals:
(1) development of a new methodological skill in normative and applied democratic theory
(2) entering a new thematic area, i.e. political representation, militant democracy, ostracism, recalls
(3) acquiring broader scientific knowledge in other areas of political theory and political science
(4) improving publishing and presentation skills, i.e. publishing peer-reviewed articles and issues
(5) improving and acquiring new managerial or ‘soft skills’, incl. event organization, teaching and supervising, administration and leadership skills. Description of the work performed since the beginning of the project Since May 2014 when the project began, I have been engaged in numerous activities such as:
• Completing the monograph Democracy’s Duty? (2015)
• Writing one invited book chapter for the volume In debate with Kari Palonen (2015)
• Writing two journal articles: “De-presentation rights” (CRISPP 2016), ‘Ostracism in Athens’ (Constellations, submitted)
• Editing one special issue ‘Equal Representation’ (CRISPP 2016)
• Writing one book review (Acta Politica 2015).
• Writing two articles for online academic magazines (The Conversation, Politiikasta)
• Organizing two international workshops, one conference section and 5 conference panels
• Presenting thirteen papers in Uppsala (x4), Glasgow, Cordoba, Jyväskyla, Adelaide, Sydney, Montreal, San Francisco, New York, Thessaloniki
• Completing three pedagogical trainings of a total of 10 full weeks on Academic Teaching, Supervising Undergraduate Students, Supervising PhD students
• Completing successfully three semesters of Swedish language learning
• Applying to VR, Wallenberg, SYLFF, RJ, EU Horizon2020, Humboldt Fellowship, smaller grants and several academic jobs at Uppsala, East Anglia, Oxford, London, Oslo etc.
• Smaller tasks: convening Uppsala political theory seminars incl. two jointly with Stockholm University, building and managing website for ECPR Standing Group on Political Concepts, reviewing journal articles, supervising MA student, reviewing international applicants for MA program, guest lectures, developing a new course for the Swedish Institute at Athens.
Description of the main results achieved so far
Regarding the projects’ research objectives, the main results were the following:
(1) Publishing a research monograph, The History of Compulsory Voting in Europe: Democracy’s Duty? (New York: Routledge 2015). Although the book’s general topic was different than the theme of NEGARE, I rewrote the book’s introduction, conclusions and certain key sections to reflect the central problem on the NEGARE project, namely political extremism and the role of mass participation in reducing the effects of extremism. This counter-intuitive claim was anchored in a long discursive trajectory from antiquity until the early twentieth century, where the obligation for all to participate was argued as a way to put off extremist minorities from attempting to capture power and as a tool for increasing the influence of moderate voters who would usually abstain.
(2) Publishing a peer-reviewed special issue for the journal Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. The issue explored the latest developments in research on political representation, and brought out its different strands of approaches.
(3) Writing two peer-reviewed journal articles. The first ‘De-presentation rights as a response to extremism’ (Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 19, 3, 2016) explored the idea of a right to negative representation, its normative implications and its potential contribution to the fight against political extremism in modern-day democracies. The second article ‘Ostracism and Democratic Self-defense in Athens’ (Constellations, under review) explored the historical use and interpretations of ostracism, the archetypal instrument of democratic removal. It argued that ostracism was not an anti-tyrannical or anti-aristocratic procedure per se, but rather a way for the demos to strengthen support for pro-democratic leaders. It continues by showing how its self-limiting features contributed to its successful use and reflects on potential applications of similar measures today.
Regarding the technical goals of the project, these were the main results:
(1) I developed expertise in a new methodological skill (normative and applied democratic theory) by discussing research drafts with my senior colleague Prof. Sofia Näsström and members of the political theory group at the host department.
(2) I entered a new thematic area by editing a special issue on ‘political representation’, and by reading and writing articles on ostracism and recalls.
(3) I acquired broader scientific knowledge in other areas of political theory and political science, by attending and convening the political theory seminar and some higher research seminars.
(4) I improved my publishing and presentation skills by publishing one peer-reviewed article and one special journal issue.
(5) I acquired new managerial or ‘soft skills’, by organizing workshops and conference panels, attending 10 weeks of pedagogical training, taking up reviewing tasks, writing my first book review and two magazine articles, giving two video interviews, being appointed PR officer for the Standing Group on Political Concepts and Convener of the bi-weekly Uppsala Political Theory Seminar.
Expected final results and their potential impact and use (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far).
The project NEGARE was only the beginning of a larger research program on Democratic Theory and Extremism. Two of my forthcoming articles are directly linked to the project: (1) one on the Politics of Militant Democracy (expected August 2016, co-authored with Ludvig Norman) (2) one on Democratic Removal after Athens (expected November 2016).
A central goal for the academic year 2016-17 is to submit to an A-level academic press a research monograph on the Origins and Prospects of Democratic Removal from Ostracism to Recall. The contents of this book are described in a research proposal that I have submitted to numerous funding agencies and academic jobs over the last months. The same idea will also form the basis for an ERC Starting Grant application in October 2016, where the goal will be to explore the theory of recall elections and the experimental use of negative voting techniques.
The potential impact of my research is in the field of anti-extremism and can be seen as an extension of constitutional debates in Western democracies, and especially EU countries, regarding the treatment of far-right parties. If my assumptions are right, democratic removal procedures can offer a possibility for fragmented pro-democratic parties to mobilize their constituents against a common political enemy. Outsourcing this political decision to the voters has the beneficial effect of making democracies more inclusive rather than exclusive as in the case of militant democracies who suggest constitutional bans on parties. Still, including anti-democrats without jeopardizing the fundaments of democratic politics remains a highly complex issue with many positive and negative side-effects, and therefore more research needs to be done in this direction. It is my intention to contribute to resolving aspects of this dilemma by emphasizing the role of the demos and the importance of politics.