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Dates and Times

05 December 2023
19:00 - 20:00


Address: Online via Zoom


Alfred Moore, University of York, United Kingdom

Between Imagination and Constraint: Identity and persona as play elements in democracy

5 December 2023
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM (AEDT) 
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM (CET)
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM (GMT)


Pretending in politics is viewed with suspicion. But in our paper, we want to identify and articulate the positive contributions of pretending and pretence in democratic life. Taking inspiration from Richard Sennett's observation that the presentation of a mask can enable the exercise of 'creative powers... the powers of play', we develop several ways in which such 'powers of play' can contribute to, and be supported by, democratic practices. We will discuss the importance of maintaining a distance from the self for reasons of protection; pretending for the purposes of emphasising differences of opinion (devil’s advocate, role-playing in deliberation); as a way of adopting another's perspective; and as a way of enhancing or diminishing the adversarial dimensions of political interaction; and more. We aim thereby to develop an account of good democratic performance, including performance that appears to be bad but might in fact be good, and to distinguish it from the un-and-anti democratic uses of persona and performance that motivate the widespread suspicion with which we began.

This seminar will be chaired by Simon Niemeyer.

About the authors

Alfred Moore is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of York. He is the author of ‘Critical Elitism: Deliberation, Democracy, and the Politics of Expertise’ (2017, Cambridge University Press), and has written widely on the politics of expertise. His work engages a wide range of themes in contemporary democratic theory, including anonymity and deliberation, and democratic non-participation. In 2020 and 2021, he held a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship for the project ‘Rethinking Political Competition,’ and he is currently researching the role of ideas of competition in democratic theory and practice.

Michael Mackenzie is Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership at Vancouver Island University. He was previously Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and has researched and written widely on democratic theory and practice. His recent publications include ‘Future Publics: Democracy, Deliberation, and Future-Regarding Collective Action’ (2021, Oxford University Press), and ‘Democracy and the Future: Future-Regarding Governance in Democratic Systems,’ edited with M. Setälä and S. Kyllönen (2023, Edinburgh University Press).

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