Berlin | Workshop on Polarization, institutional design and the future of representative democracy
Democracy is facing testing times. Some challenges such as reinvigorated populism, terrorism and financial crises seem to have erupted relatively suddenly, other fundamental challenges have been in the making for some time. Climate change, demographic change and immigration, or political polarization and rising levels of social inequality resemble slow-moving yet powerful glaciers rather than the sudden earthquakes. Nevertheless, like glaciers, they are capable of causing great destruction. This project scrutinizes the ability of liberal democratic institutions to cope with challenges. Starting from normative questions surrounding the functioning of representative democracy, the research program will focus (a) on problems of inequality in political involvement and representation; (b) institutional performance, constitutional choice and democratic reforms; both aspects are studied (c) in the context of specific policy environments that make the challenges referred to above particularly visible. The project extends the SSRC program ‘Anxieties of Democracy’ to Europe and will enhance the collaboration between European and American researchers to advance research on contemporary challenges of democracy through a series of conferences and workshops, visiting fellowships and joint publications.
The Democratic Anxieties Paper Series
Is it Ice? An earthquake on the northpole? Or a glacier? What is it in the background there?
What you see in the background is provided by the film Chasing Ice. It is a glacier in Western Greenland. The largest glacier calving ever filmed. Climate change, demographic change and immigration, or the growing levels of social inequality in highly developed market economies, all of these developments resemble slow-moving yet powerful glaciers rather than the sudden ‘earthquake’-type shock referred to at the beginning. Nevertheless, like glaciers, they are capable of causing great tectonic destruction. Like the more sudden crises, they may require new technical instruments at the disposal of policy makers. Beyond questions of effectiveness, these new instruments have affected the ways democratic institutions work. The problem of parliamentary accountability during the so-called ‘Euro crisis’ or the tension between security and the right to privacy in the face of growing commercial and stateled surveillance of personal communication data are cases in point.