The Politics of Dissensus. Parliamentarism, Rhetoric, Conceptual History

Research Project of the Finnish Academy, connected to Kari Palonen’s Academy professorship 2008-2012

The focus of the project lies in the conceptual and historical link between parliamentarism, rhetoric and conceptual history with dissensus as their common heuristic principle of intelligibility.

There exists an historical paradigm for the politics of dissensus: the parliament. The parliamentary paradigm allows us to understand that dissensus does not mean the dissolution of the link between the agents, but rather allows them to remain in the same audience, to deliberate pro et contra and persuade each other to ”cross the floor” when it comes to the vote. The parliament is a real novelty in relation to the feudal estates and the ancient and medieval republican assemblies. The procedural innovations of the British Parliament, which are still crucial for parliamentary politics, refer to the rhetorical tradition.

The politics of dissensus offers a new perspective on the study of the parliament as a political arena in which opposing alternatives and the mutual persuasion of the members is not only tolerated but regarded as its operative principle. The parliamentary style of politics is cultivated in the deliberation between opposing perspectives and based on the mutual respect between adversaries. The main aim of my project is to analyse and highlight the historical and conceptual resources of the parliamentary politics of dissensus.

The Academy Professorship’s project team consists of first rank scholars and doctoral students who would work closely with the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Political Thought and Conceptual Change and the research team “Political Thought and Conceptual History”.  The work of all members of the project is thematically connected to the core of the project. The project members shall publish in English for an international audience, and they participate in organising and teaching doctoral courses at the university, national and international levels and M.A. seminars in Jyväskylä. The project also allows both to intensify existing and start new international networks or projects on conceptual history and parliamentarism and political rhetoric.