Dr Pablo Marshall (Universidad Austral de Chile) will give a seminar entitled Disenfranchisement as Internal Exclusion: Politics Beyond Human Rights and Democracy.
Venue: Neil MacCormick Room, David Hume Tower
The abstract of his presentation is as follows
This article investigates the political philosophical foundations of the electoral exclusion of convicted prisoners in modern liberal democracies. It considers the three main justifications of disenfranchisement as a principled exception to universal suffrage: (i) disenfranchisement is a democratic form of punishment, (ii) the franchise requires moral capacity or civic virtue, and (iii) it is meant to protect the integrity of the electoral process. I argue that all three justifications on their own fail to explain the practice of disenfranchisement and that they depend on assumptions that are unlikely to be reconciled with the principles of political equality and liberty that underlie universal suffrage: (i) disenfranchisement constitutes a contradictory form of democratic punishment because it destroys the link between the convicted person and the community; (ii) this practice treats convicted prisoners unfairly, demanding of them capacities and virtues that are not demanded of other enfranchised citizens; and (iii) disenfranchisement causes much more damage to electoral integrity than protection. I conclude that a justification of disenfranchisement in a framework that considers democracy and human rights as bases of legitimacy is an impossible task, and I recommend a departure from the justificatory paradigm to focus the analysis on the positive function(s) that disenfranchisement may perform in a political community. I explore the particular function of drawing internal boundaries using the critical idea of internal exclusion, the position of disempowerment of those that belong but are not included or represented. I argue that the electoral exclusion experimented by convicted prisoners may be better explained as a powerful symbolic complement of the physical, political and social exclusions that redundant subjects also are likely to experiment. Focusing on the political function rather than on the justification of disenfranchisement may serve two important critical tasks: (i) expose the democratic problem of internal exclusion and open the field to the organization of resistance and contestation strategies against the exclusionary politics underlying disenfranchisement; and (ii) expose the shortcomings of the constitutional framework of liberal democracy in terms of fully grasping the consequences of excluding somebody from citizenship, this is, the failure to understand a clear deployment of the exclusionary politics of a community that is looking to constitute and affirm its identity against the otherness of the convicted prisoner.