Democratic pluralism as engagement and encounter: asymmetric reciprocity, reflexivity, and agonism
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis shows how democratic politics requires a commitment to pluralism as engagement and encounter of the other in their otherness. I contend that it is necessary to commit to such an idea of pluralism because of the problem of incomplete understanding. I establish this premise by drawing on Hans-Georg Gadamer’s account of human finitude. Based on this premise, I argue that the instantiation of Gadamer’s principle of openness leads democratic politics to pluralism as engagement and encounter of the other. Further, I develop accounts of asymmetric reciprocity, reflexivity, and agonism as modes of democratic politics that instantiate the principle of openness. In chapter 1, I establish discourse as a necessary element for democratic politics by drawing from the way Jurgen Habermas uses ‘discourse ethics’ to address the problems of understanding in plural societies. In chapter 2, I demonstrate how incomplete understanding poses a problem for discourse and gives rise to interpretive conflicts by drawing from Gadamer’s account of human finitude. Here I also develop an account of openness as a suitable principle for beings with incomplete understanding based on Gadamer’s idea of hermeneutical experience. In chapters 3-5, I develop accounts of asymmetric reciprocity, reflexivity, and agonism as modes of democratic politics that instantiate the principle of openness. I do so by drawing from Iris Young’s, John Dryzek’s, and Chantal Mouffe’s approaches to the problems that plurality poses to discourse ethics and democratic politics.
PhD in Politics