Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Khoo S.
Human Development and Capabilities Association 2017
When the democratic sinkhole effect threatens collective capabilities: what should we focus on?
CapeTown, South Africa
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Critical analyses of the Brexit vote and Trump presidential election point to a correlation between extreme global inequality (Oxfam 2017) and the rise of negative collective capabilities, especially in relation to economic, social and cultural rights. Positive individual capabilities that are typically associated with civil and political rights are undermined by new innovations in electoral management, pioneered by conservative advocacy networks, using alternative and social media, algorithmic tools and psychological marketing techniques. These techniques actively seek to develop negative or adapted preferences (women to support misogynists; poor and working class to support elite tax breaks at the expense of their own welfare) through the amplification and algorithmically tailored resolution of individual and collective fears. Collective capabilities to maintain public decency, sanction discrimination and prevent harms attributable to misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry have been eroded, as new intersections of technology, conservative activism and finance (gifts and investments by individual billionaires) undermine rational and deliberative democratic processes. As Evans (2002, 59) suggests, centralization of power over the cultural flows that shape preferences is a subtle form of "unfreedom", as Sen might put it, but no less powerful for being subtle. Corrosive and undermining forces contribute to a ‘sinkhole’ effect, threating the collapse of the fundamental underpinnings of collective capabilities which connect civil and political freedoms with rational deliberation and the pursuit of wellbeing. This paper advances the idea of the democratic sinkhole, identifies pathways of negative capability formation and considers how our ideas about collective capabilities and the connections between the ‘first generations’ of civil and political human rights and the ‘second generation’ economic, social and cultural rights have to be reconsidered. The paper explores the possibilities of public health ethics and public goods theory to repair the democratic sinkhole and to re-orient collective capabilities towards autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice (Hanlon et al 2011).
Triennial travel grant
Publication Themes
Applied Social Sciences and Public Policy, Humanities in Context