30 April - 2 May 2010
The opening decade of the 21st century sees democracy entrenched as the ideal to which all should aspire who do not already enjoy the best of all possible political systems. But to assert that alternatives to democracy are (even) worse is hardly to give a positive argument in its favour: Plato's objection, that the ship of state requires expertise to steer it that the many do not possess surely deserves a better answer. But what? And is an answer to be found in democracy itself (whatever that may be) or in what democracy makes possible?
And even once that's dealt with, what about actually existing democracy? If, as Zizek argues, 'Multi-party liberal democracy represents a precise vision of social life in which politics is organized so that parties compete in elections to exert control over the state legislative and executive apparatus', is that the best democracy can do? Indeed, just what is to count as democracy? And again, is an answer to this question to be sought in some substantial element of the very idea of democracy or in instrumental terms, such as the practical consequences of adopting this or that view?
This conference is intended as the launch of a continuing and explicitly multi- and inter-disciplinary conversation that aims to bring together people from a wide range of disciplines, professions and NGOs to focus on what democracy might mean; on what if anything might justify democratic as against other social arrangements; and on visions of democratic practice that go beyond the pusillanimous, platitudinous and ultimately self-regarding charade that is the reality of western liberal democracy.
The 'problems of democracy' as outlined below deliberately seek to address large questions as a means of setting something of an agenda for such a project. We will of course be pleased to receive proposals that extend or complement these. We seek contributions from both practitioners and academics, and from the widest possible range of intellectual interests and commitment.
1. What Counts as Democracy?
~ What are the assumptions that lie behind democracy? Is democracy an end in itself, or does it serve other values and goals?
~ Government by, for and of the people: what political, epistemic and/or other commitments might such an ideal entail?
~ Is 'What counts as democracy?' in any sense a moral question?
2. Is Democracy a Good Thing?
~ What exactly does democracy have to recommend it?
~ What are the connections between democracy and equality? And what does equality amount to? Is it self-evident that equality is an end to be pursued; or are there substantive arguments in its favour?
~ How does democracy understand freedom? And is freedom a self-evident good?
~ Alternatives to democracy
3. Forms of Democracy
~ Considerations of representative, delegated and discursive models of democracy
~ Is there a case for lotteries to replace or supplement elections?
~ The scope of democracy: state, nation, corporation, workplace, community and locality
The Steering Group particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals. 300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 27th November 2009. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 19th March 2010.
300 word abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order: a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract.
Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.
Joint Organising Chairs:
Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics
Faculty of Arts, Brighton University,
Network Founder and Leader
The conference is part of the Probing the Boundaries programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.
All papers accepted for and presented at the conference will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s).
For further details about the project please visit:
For further details about the conference please visit: