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Democratic Disruptions: Towards a Deliberative Theory of Direct Action

Democratic Disruptions: Towards a Deliberative Theory of Direct Action
15 Devonshire Place, Larkin Building room 200
Time: Apr 23rd, 4:00 pm End: Apr 23rd, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: United States Studies, Political Science, Ethics, East Asian Studies (FAS), Critical Theory
Lecture by William Smith, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
Public Lecture Series

William Smith, Department of Government and Public Administration, Chinese University of Hong Kong & Visiting Researcher, Centre for Ethics

Democratic Disruptions: Towards a Deliberative Theory of Direct Action
Thursday, April 23, 2015
4:00 – 6:00 pm
Room 200, Larkin Building
15 Devonshire Place
This event is free and open to the public. Registration is not required. For further information, please contact the Centre for Ethics at (416) 978-6288.
Direct action involves achieving political goals through disruptive acts of protest. The last decade has witnessed a proliferation of this kind of disruptive activism across democratic societies. The tactics range from the familiar, such as occupations of public space as a protest against unregulated financial markets, to the innovative, such as occupations of cyber space as a means of disrupting corporate or government institutions. The relationship between direct action and democratic politics remains a matter of considerable dispute within both democratic practice and democratic theory. There is ongoing debate about the nature of this kind of activism, its moral status, and its broader role in the ebb and flow of political life. This project aims to cast light on these debates through drawing on the deliberative turn in democratic theorizing. This might strike some as unusual, because the types of political behaviour associated with the deliberative paradigm seem to be a long way removed from the confrontational and disruptive nature of direct action. The most recent development within deliberative theorising, however, cast doubt on this assumption. The concept of a ‘deliberative system’ has been introduced to fix ideas about the important role that non-conventional modes of political behaviour can play in a deliberative democracy. There is, in fact, recognition that direct action can make important contributions to deliberative systems, but theorists have called for further research into the positive and negative impacts that direct action can have.
William Smith is assistant professor in the Department of Government and Public Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research is in the field of contemporary political theory, with a particular focus on issues related to deliberative democracy, civil disobedience and international political thought. He is author of Civil Disobedience and Deliberative Democracy (London: Routledge, 2013) and has published in a wide range of international journals, including The Journal of Political Philosophy, Political Studies, and Politics and Society. Professor Smith is a Visiting Researcher at the Centre for Ethics.

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