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Rostbøll, Christian F. & Scavenius, Theresa. 2018. Compromise and Disagreement in Contemporary Political Science. London: Routledge.

Christian F. Rostbøll has published the book Compromise and Disagreement in Contemporary Political Science, together with Theresa Scavenius. The book is a part in the series Routledge Innovations in Political Theory. Compromise and Disagreement in Contemporary Political Theory provides a critical discussion of when and to what extent compromise is the best response to pluralism and disagreement in democratic decision-making and beyond. Christian F. Rostbøll and Theresa Scavenius draw together the work of ten established and emerging scholars to provide different perspectives on compromise.

Rostbøll, Christian F. "Kant and the critique of the ethics-first approach to politics" [online]. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. (2017).

Abstract: Contemporary ‘realists’ attack the Kantian influence on political philosophy. A main charge is that Kantians fail to understand the specificity of politics and neglect to develop a ‘distinctively political thought’ that differs from moral philosophy. Instead, the critics say, Kantians are guilty of an ‘ethics-first approach to politics,’ in which political theory is a mere application of moral principles. But what does this ethics-first approach have to do with Kant himself? Very little. This article shows how Kant’s approach to political theory at a fundamental level includes political institutions, power, and coercion as well as disagreement, security, and coordination problems. In contrast to realists, Kant has a fundamental principle, which can explain why and guide how we ought to approach the political question, namely the norm of equal freedom. Yet, Kant’s theory does not take the form of a moralistic ought addressed to the isolated individual, but concerns a problem that we share as interdependent beings and that requires common institutions. The fruitfulness of the Kantian approach, then, is that it can take the political question seriously without being uncritical of actual politics and power, and that it can be normative without being moralistic.

Rostbøll, C. & Olsen, T. "Why withdrawal from the European Union is undemocratic". International Theory, 9(3), 436-465. (2017).

Abstract. The Lisbon Treaty from 2009 introduced the possibility for individual member states to withdraw from the European Union (EU) on the basis of a unilateral decision. In June 2016 the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU invoking article 50 of the treaty. But is withdrawal democratically legitimate? In fact, the all-affected principle suggests that it is undemocratic for subunits to leave larger political units when it adversely affects other citizens without including them in the decision. However, it is unclear what the currency of this affectedness is and, hence, why withdrawal would be undemocratic. We argue that it is the effect of withdrawal on the status of citizens as free and equal that is decisive and that explains why unilateral withdrawal of subunits from larger units is democratically illegitimate. Moreover, on the ‘all-affected status principle’ that we develop, even multilaterally agreed withdrawal is undemocratic because the latter diminishes the future ability of citizens to make decisions together regarding issues that affect their status as free and equal. On this basis, we conclude that it is undemocratic for a member state such as the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU.

Rostbøll, Christian. F. "Kant, Freedom as Independence, and Democracy," The Journal of Politics 78, No. 3 (2016).

Abstract. While the influence of Kant’s practical philosophy on contemporary political theory has been profound, it has its source in Kant’s autonomy-based moral philosophy rather than in his freedom-based philosophy of Right. Kant scholars have increasingly turned their attention to Kant’s Rechtslehre, but they have largely ignored its potential contribution to discussions of democracy. However, Kant’s approach to political philosophy can supply unique insights to the latter. His notion that freedom and the public legal order are coconstitutive can be developed into a freedom argument for constitutional democracy. This freedom argument goes beyond freedom as moral autonomy and a libertarian idea of freedom as noninterference to a notion of freedom as a form of standing constituted by the public legal order. The trouble with other attempts to connect freedom and democracy is that they have operated with a moral ideal that is independent of a public legal order.

Rostbøll, Christian F. "The Non-Instrumental Value of Democracy: The Freedom Argument," Constellations, 22, no. 2 (2015): 267-278.

Abstract. A current debate in democratic theory concerns whether we can explain democratic legitimacy purely with reference to the intrinsic value of the public affirmation of equality, or whether we must invoke extra-democratic epistemic standards to do so. The freedom side of democracy is ignored or even rejected in this debate. But in order to understand the intrinsic value of democracy, we cannot ignore the relationship between freedom and democracy. Moreover, the freedom argument can better respond to the epistemic challenge to intrinsic accounts than can the equality argument. However, the freedom argument for democracy must be refined to avoid important objections to the idea that democracy can make citizens self-governing. The proposed freedom argument is based on notions of autonomy and freedom that have their root in the relational norm of not having another person as a master.

Rostbøll, Christian F. “Nondomination and Democratic Legitimacy,” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (2015).

Abstract. While many regard equality as the moral foundation of democracy, republican theory grounds democracy in freedom as non-domination. The grounding of democracy in freedom has been criticized for relying on either an Aristotelian perfectionism or a Rousseauian equation of the people in their collective capacity and the people understood severally. The republican theory of freedom and democracy has the resources to meet these criticisms. But the most systematic elaboration of republicanism, that of Philip Pettit, achieves this by turning the relationship between freedom and democracy into an instrumental relationship in a manner open to objections. Instead, republicanism should offer a justification of democracy that also has a non-instrumental dimension. This revised republican freedom argument for democracy has advantages compared to the equality argument for democracy, including a better explanation of democratic procedures.

Tønder, Lars. "Comic Rules: Kierkegaard, "The Idiots," and the Politics of Dogma 95," Theory & Event, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2015.

Abstract. This essay attends to key questions about the lived experiences embedded in The Idiots, which unlike many of von Trier’s other movies is unusually place specific, targeting the Danish welfare state and the national culture underpinning it. To appreciate this dimension of the film, the essay stages an encounter between von Trier and another passionate auteur—the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Combining von Trier’s cinematic vision with Kierkegaard’s philosophical existentialism is helpful because it allows us to foreground the techniques of filmmaking while also specifying the lived experiences enabled by these techniques. Even if we accept that The Idiots highlights the meta-diegetic level of filmmaking, and even if we accept that this tension points to a different politics, we still have to specify the embodiment of this opening as well as clarify how it contributes to democracy and society. The dialogue between Kierkegaard and von Trier is an important step in this direction.



Tønder, Lars. "Political Theory and the Sensorium," Political Theory, 2015.

Abstract. Political theory has for the past ten years or so witnessed a growing interest in the relationship between the sensorium and politics.[i] Spurred by a variety of reasons, including insights from other fields such as neuroscience and new media studies, the interest expands on a number of previous developments in political theory. As a first approximation, one could thus say that the “sensorial turn” represents a continuation of feminist and phenomenological approaches, which criticized liberalism and other classical paradigms of politics for disavowing the role of embodied experience in political life. Like the feminist-phenomenological approaches on which it builds, the sensorial turn sees such a disavowal as inhibiting, in particular when it comes to pressing issues regarding justice, ideology, and power. Unlike its predecessors, however, the sensorial turn does not replace the disavowal with an emphasis on either social discourse or bodily integrity, but instead seeks to highlight the netherworld of affect and perception that both underpin and undermine the appearance of all sentient existence. The result is a new set of questions for the study of political life. No longer are we asked to determine which entities are most likely to secure and manage the desire for sovereignty; instead, we are encouraged to consider the processes of becoming that both precede and exceed this desire. How do sensorial forces change over time? What kinds of practices make political agents more perceptible to such change? Are some modes of the sensorium more conducive to democratic politics than others?


Tønder, Lars. "Seing-being seen : A Response to Green's "The Eyes of the People","Democratic Theory: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2015.


Tønder, Lars. "Tolerance and Power : What Can a Tolerant Society Do?" Contemporary Political Theory, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2015.