Category Archives: Volume 15, no. 1 (2020)

Local Democracy in the West-Nordic Countries

In 2012, the research project West Nordic municipal structure. Challenges to local democracy, efficient service provision and adaptive capacity was granted money from the Arctic Co-operation Programme 2012-2014. The overall aim of the project was to collect knowledge on the local level in the three West Nordic countries; the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland by mapping the situation and development in the municipal sectors, focusing primarily on four aspects. The first was; the municipal structure. The second was; the democratic aspect – that is, which consequences the structural development has had for local democracy – to identify the main challenges to democracy, caused by the structural developments. The third; to map the service production capacity and effectiveness of the municipalities, and the fourth; to try to map the municipalities’ capacity to manage the development processes which often accompany municipal amalgamations. An overall research question was: What consequences have developments in municipal structure in the three countries had for democracy, local self-government and autonomy, as well as the ability to manage the processes accompanying amalgamations? In September 2014 a report containing this analysis was submitted . In this article I use the data from this survey to answer following main research questions:

  1. What is the general status of local democracy in the three countries?
  2. Is there a connection between size and democracy when we are looking at municipalities in a small scale size as is the case in the West Nordic countries?
  3. Does peripheral or central position in a municipality affect the attitudes towards democracy as measured in the survey reported?

The operationalization of local democracy is threefold: First, looking at the perception of power and influence by different territories in each municipality. Second, looking at the perceptions of access to the municipal administration. The third is by looking at the perception of ties and contacts to the local politicians.

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Is There a Secular Hierarchy in the Norwegian Public Sphere?

The point of departure for this article is to understand how various utterances from Muslims on themes such as secularity, freedom and feminism can be recognized in the Norwegian public sphere. Following the French anthropologist Louis Dumont, I want to show how values and ideals like freedom and feminism lay the foundation for what we could call a “secular hierarchy” within the Norwegian context. This hierarchy remains concealed for both participants and for researchers as long as it is not confronted but has become more visible as various “new” voices want to have a say in the public sphere. My claim in the article is that the variation in Muslim points of view can be understood as different approaches to the same hierarchical obstacle. However, due to our modern ideology we are not theoretically equipped to understand what hierarchy is. A second point in the article is thus to draw on the tradition from Dumont to reflect on the theoretical aspects of hierarchy.

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A Curious Case of Culinary Polysemy

The term maslo represents a curious case of polysemy in whose microcosm two civilizations seems to meet and collide, Northern and Southern Europe: two universes, butter and oil, silently facing and challenging each other for centuries. The lexeme will be investigated in the relations of form and meaning  observed in diachrony, in an attempt to grasp the representation of the polysemic word as a whole, with a dynamic structure constantly changing over time”.

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W. Friese et al. (eds.), Ascending and Descending the Acropolis: Movement in Athenian Religion; and T. Møbjerg et al. (eds.), The Hammerum Burial Site: Customs and Clothing in the Roman Iron Age (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2019)

A review of the books: W. Friese et al. (eds.), Ascending and Descending the Acropolis: Movement in Athenian Religion; and T. Møbjerg et al. (eds.), The Hammerum Burial Site: Customs and Clothing in the Roman Iron Age (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2019)

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Mia Arp Falov & Cory Blad (eds.), Social Welfare Responses in a Neoliberal Era: Policies, Practices, and Social Problems (Leiden and Boston: Brill. Studies in Critical Social Sciences: Critical Global Studies, 2019)

A review of the book: Mia Arp Falov & Cory Blad (eds.), Social Welfare Responses in a Neoliberal Era: Policies, Practices, and Social Problems (Leiden and Boston: Brill. Studies in Critical Social Sciences: Critical Global Studies, 2019)

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Franziska Ehnert, Climate Policy in Denmark, Germany, Estonia and Poland, Ideas, Discourses and Institutions (Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2019)

A review of the book: Franziska Ehnert, Climate Policy in Denmark, Germany, Estonia and Poland, Ideas, Discourses and Institutions, Northampton, Edward Elgar Publishing Inc., 2019, 220pp. ISBN 9781788979399 (cased) ISBN 9781788979405

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Ole Høiris, Ole Marquard and Gitte Adler Reimer (eds.), Grønlændernes syn på Danmark. Historiske, kulturelle og sproglige perspektiver (Aarhus: Aarhus Universitets foreleg, 2019)

A review of the book: Ole Høiris, Ole Marquard and Gitte Adler Reimer (eds.), Grønlændernes syn på Danmark. Historiske, kulturelle og sproglige perspektiver [The Greenlander’s view of Denmark. Historical, Cultural and Language Perspectives](Aarhus: Aarhus Universitets foreleg, 2019)

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Cyrus Rohani & Behrooz Sabet (eds.), Winds of Change: The Challenge of Modernity in the Middle East and North Africa. (London: Saqi Books, 2019)

A review of the book: Cyrus Rohani & Behrooz Sabet (eds.), Winds of Change: The Challenge of Modernity in the Middle East and North Africa. (London: Saqi Books, 2019)

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Asger Sørensen, Capitalism, Alienation and Critique: Studies in Economy and Dialectics (Leiden: Brill, 2019)

A review of the book: Asger Sørensen, Capitalism, Alienation and Critique: Studies in Economy and Dialectics (Leiden: Brill, 2019)

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Minority Claims in Multicultural Societies: A comparative study of case law

The whole essay consists of eight sections:

1) What is the best way for democracy to deal with multicultural clashes? Firstly, I explore Awad’s adaptation of Habermas’ model of deliberative democracy to the multicultural question. Then, I will try to reject this kind of model, as it is presented by Awad.

2) Two egalitarian theses about justice in immigration will be showed: a) restrictions on immigration should be compensated by development aid; b) such material compensations would further equality of opportunity at a global level.

3) I explain some difficulties in the task of defining minorities the solution to which seems to require an appeal to the liberal value of equal respect, rather than a mere request for recognition of differences.

4) After answering to these questions: “Is religion a public or a private matter? What role can religion play when it comes to the emergence of a European solidarity?”, I will argue that the “Islam problem” could be an indicator of the disparity between liberal and illiberal strands of neo-European secularism.

5) As in 2009 the Swiss voted to ban all future construction of Islamic minarets in their country, this section looks closely at all the issues raised by the minarets ban, inside and outside the E.U.

6) Subsequently, I will analyse what values are at stake in the issues of religious accommodation, and what principles can the main parties – as well the citizens – involved employ in attempting to resolve them.

7) The final section challenges how the role of emotions could lead to suboptimal political outcomes for the parties involved. To a large extent emotions have been instrumental in determining outcomes in the recent and on-going struggle between Greece and Germany as regards to the terms of the Greek bailout.

8) In a brief excursus I reconstruct the relationship between “biopolitics” and liberalism: the aim is to propose the singular analogies with the ideas of “governance” and “Rule of Law” in the liberal tradition, casting a new light on the interpretation offered by Michel Foucault.

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On a Conversation between Socrates and Meno in the Dialogue “Meno”

This short text discusses Part II of Plato’s dialogue Meno, in which Socrates asks the boy to construct a square twice the area of a given square. Socrates presupposes that the boy already knows what a square looks like (“what it is” in everyday language), knows (accepts) that the four sides of the square are equal and that two are parallel to the base, two to the vertical. the boy sees a figure that he has learnt is called “a square”. When a “diagonal” is added he sees it. When he is told that the diagonal is the length of the lines in a square twice the area he may believe that to be the case but he does not yet know. When he discovers that to be so he sees no more than before;  but understands and knows.  What he understands is the form of a square. His movement from seeing to questioning, to  understanding and knowing is, perhaps, not unlike that of those in the cave in the Republic.

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Populism as an Essentially Contested Concept or: On the Dangers of Centrism

The term «populism» is most often used polemically, and notably as a pejorative term, denoting an actual or potential threat to democracy. If, however, all problems and challenges to democracy are projected into an image of the populist danger, we encounter nothing but «centrism» as a mirror-image of «populism». Theories of «radical democracy» propose a more analytical concept of «populism», denoting the political dynamics of social conflict, i.e. how popular frustrations, claims and demands are articulated. In this perspective, political «agonism» is vital to democracy. My own take on these questions: «Democracy» is an essentially contested concept, but if we a central feature is that the «people» («demos») is the basis for the legitimacy of its institutions and policies, we must recognize that conflicts over the symbolic representation of «the people» are fundamental. To dismiss the problem is as dangerous as to claim that it is solved.

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