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Parliamentary means dissensus

Academy of Finland

Research launched by Academy of Finland Professor project shows that consensus is rare in parliaments. Parliamentary politics is about finding opposite views and alternatives which stems from following established rules and procedure.

What kind of activity is parliamentary politics? What kinds of arguments for and against it have been presented in different historical periods? These are questions the newly published volume The Politics of Dissensus: Parliaments in Debate (eds. Kari Palonen, José María Rosales and Tapani Turkka, Cantabria University Press / McGraw-Hill Interamericana de España, 2014) addresses.

The aim of this book is to open discussion on parliaments as paradigmatic deliberative assemblies. It encourages to a more comprehensive analysis of parliamentary politics that does not restrict itself to the study of elections, the political parties and the government-opposition divide. The attention is directed at the widespread presence of parliamentary elements in everyday political activities. For example, British debating societies adopted parliamentary procedure in the nineteenth century.

It is often forgotten that parliamentary procedure has spread and been adopted in the rules and key practices of various meetings and assemblies. The book aims to recover the insight into the singular political significance of parliaments. By doing so it offers new approaches, for example, to democratic theory that has lost sight of the political centrality of parliaments.

Dissensus is the opposite of consensus. Parliamentary politics is considered primarily a confrontational, debate-based activity, instead of consensus-driven decision-making process. In that sense, dissensus means the conceptual condition for the intelligibility of parliamentary politics. In parliamentary procedure dissensus and debate are institutionalised: no motion is approved without a thorough examination of and confrontation among imaginable alternatives.

The subtitle Parliament in Debate has a double meaning. It refers to both parliament as the object of political and academic debate and debate as the paradigmatic model of parliamentary politics.

The volume is an outcome of international collaboration. Kari Palonen's Academy of Finland Professor project "The Politics of Dissensus. Parliamentarism, Rhetoric and Conceptual History" (2008-2012) hosted by the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy in University of Jyväskylä launched the idea together with professor José María Rosales, the director of a research project "The Civic Constellation" (Spanish National Research Plan, 2012-2014 ). Contributors include members of both projects as well as their partners in co-operation, including professor Pasi Ihalainen (University of Jyväskylä), docent Claudia Wiesner (Philipps-Universität, Marburg) and professor emeritus Kyösti Pekonen (University of Helsinki).


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