by Daniela Cammack
It is generally believed that one argument advanced by Aristotle in favor of the political authority of the multitude is that large groups can make better decisions by pooling their knowledge than individuals or small groups can make alone. This is supported by two analogies, one apparently involving a “potluck dinner” and the other aesthetic judgment. This article suggests that that interpretation of Aristotle’s argument is implausible given the historical context and several features of the text. It argues that Aristotle’s support for the rule of the multitude rested not on its superior knowledge but rather on his belief that the virtue of individuals can be aggregated and even amplified when they act collectively. This significantly alters our understanding of Aristotle’s political thought and presents a powerful alternative to the epistemic defenses of mass political activity popular today.
Political Theory April 2013 vol. 41 no. 2 175-202
by Seyla Benhabib
Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberalism has gained increasing influence in the last few decades. This article focuses on Schmitt’s analysis of international law in The Nomos of the Earth, in order to uncover the reasons for his appeal as a critic not only of liberalism but of American hegemonic aspirations as well. Schmitt saw the international legal order that developed after World War I, and particularly the “criminalization of aggressive war,” as a smokescreen to hide U.S. aspirations to world dominance. By focusing on Schmitt’s critique of Kant’s concept of the “unjust enemy,” the article shows the limits of Schmitt’s views and concludes that Schmitt, as well as left critics of U.S. hegemony, misconstrue the relation between international law and democratic sovereignty as a model of top–down domination. As conflictual as the relationship between international norms and democratic sovereignty can be at times, this needs to be interpreted as one of mediation and not domination.
Political Theory December 2012 vol. 40 no. 6 688-713