Causality, Democracy Support, and the Cult of the Factish Gods

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This article examines assumptions about causal analysis characteristic of the policy implementation of democracy support. Interrogation of causal analysis in democracy support is of some interest not least because it has become a prominent aspect of the new, more rigorous, evidence-based, fact-driven democracy support. To introduce a new theoretical angle to the analysis of knowledge practices in democracy support, this article adopts, in an exploratory fashion, Bruno Latour's concept of the 'factish' as its guide. This notion suggests that causal analyses in general, while driven on the one hand by the urge to separate 'facts' from 'fetishes', 'reality' from 'beliefs' and 'subjects' from 'objects', on the other hand, also simultaneously embody the impossibility, and the effects, of our attempts to break them apart. I argue that this perspective suggests that we should not only recognise that systematic modes of causal analysis do not necessarily herald a more neutral or effective democracy-support practice, but also, further, that we should pay attention to the ways in which systematic forms of causal analysis themselves can be seen to create the very 'factishes', which justify the activities of democracy support, and thus simultaneously bring about a particular (factish) 'lived reality' of democratic life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760-781
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number4
Early online date29 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 03 Oct 2017


  • Latour
  • causal analysis
  • democracy support
  • factish


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