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Back to Panel Details
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Liberal Democracy, Populism, and the Role of Democratic Innovations

Civil Society
Democracy
Political Participation
Populism
Critical Theory
Normative Theory
P204
Jonathan Kuyper
Universitetet i Oslo
Fabio Wolkenstein
Aarhus Universitet
Nicole Curato
Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra

Friday 17:40 - 19:20 (08/09/2017)

Building: BL27 Georg Sverdrups hus Floor: 3 Room: GS 3512

Abstract

Widespread mistrust of established democratic institutions is one of the most serious challenges facing the liberal democracies of our age. Perhaps the most powerful expression of this mistrust is the rise of populist parties and movements across established democracies. These parties and movements deliberately defy the norms of public discourse we have grown accustomed to and, when in power, have proven to systematically dismantle checks and balances, and jettison the rule of law so as to establish a regime where political power is responsive to the unified and unchecked will of the people. Accepting that the status quo of liberal democracy is unsatisfying, scholars and practitioners concerned with “democratic innovations” — deliberative mini-publics, citizens juries, etc. — have put their efforts and energies into improving existing channels of political participation and bring citizens closer to government. Their response is one that seeks to make contemporary liberal democracies more inclusive and participatory while retaining a commitment to liberal-democratic institutions. This strategy is welcome if one subscribes to liberal democracy broadly understood, but it also raises difficult questions. For instance, can democratic innovations realistically find public support in a time where distinctively anti-liberal alternatives, in particular leader-centred forms of democracy that reject mediating institutions like political parties, are on the rise? Are democratic innovations informed by a correct understanding of citizens’ participatory demands? Can they be recognised as meaningful by citizens who are inclined to support anti-liberal, perhaps even authoritarian political movements? Perhaps more fundamentally, we must also ask whether democratic innovations are desirable in the first place as a way of enhancing the democratic experience of citizens. Since their success often depends on the benevolence of public officials who must be willing to act on the outcomes of citizens’ deliberations, do they run the risk of being no more than a cosmetic improvement on the current state of affairs? Similarly, are democratic innovations the wrong place to start reforming the existing system given that most power rests still with established and institutionally entrenched participatory bodes, in particular political parties? These and related questions must be squarely confronted if democratic innovations are to be more than niche topic in democratic theory and practice. Indeed, if democratic innovations are to be an adequate response to the on-going crisis of liberal democracy, eschewing these questions may render efforts to improve democratic participation via democratic innovations irrelevant. This panel invites contributions that take on this difficult topic. It seeks to bring together both theoretical and empirical discussions of the possibilities of enhancing liberal democracy by adopting innovative institutional designs, in an age where liberal democracy as such has come under fire.
Title Details
Justification Crisis: A Deliberative-Democratic Critique of Faltering Hegemony View Paper Details
Enhancing Democracy with Mini-Publics: When and How? View Paper Details
Three Types of Technocracy and their Relation to Populism and Democracy View Paper Details
Innovative Local Democracy, Populism, and the 'One Plus' in Representation View Paper Details
Limits and Potentials of Direct Democracy in Hungary View Paper Details