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Challenges to Liberal Democracy I: Reacting to Populism and Extremism

Democracy
Extremism
Political Parties
Political Theory
Populism
Liberalism
Normative Theory
S036
Chiara Destri
Sciences Po Paris
Chiara Destri
Sciences Po Paris

Building: (Building D) Faculty of Law, Administration & Economics , Floor: 2nd floor, Room: 2.05

Wednesday 15:00 - 16:40 (04/09/2019)


Abstract

As time goes by, the so-called legitimation crisis that liberal democratic institutions have been enduring since the Nineties only seems to get worse. If decades ago political and social scientists already identified - and debated over - signs of disaffection and political disengagement displayed by democratic citizens, we now witness a growing support for parties and movements that question, reject and even oppose fundamental tenets underpinning liberal democracies, such as inclusion, pluralism and equal freedom for all. On an even more disheartening note, recent news also certify a burgeoning discomfort with well-known historical, scientific and factual truths, sometimes to the extent of outright rejection. Though conceptually different, these phenomena often go hand in hand, being referred to as manifestations of populism, extremism and misinformation. While the former, especially in its right-wing version, is considered to be the new bête noir haunting liberal democracy, to a certain extent they all are old recurring issues in the democratic landscape. Political scientists and theorists have been trying to diagnose the nature and genesis of these phenomena, but there is still little agreement on their defining features, as well as on the kind and size of the threat they represent for democratic institutions (although their incompatibility with political liberalism is much less controversial). Naturally, where the diagnosis is uncertain, also the prognosis is open to contestation. This is particularly troubling for political theorists, as they cannot escape the pressing question of how to fairly deal with these phenomena in the political arena. The aim of the panel is to explore what are the possible responses that committed democrats and liberals, from different philosophical perspectives, can offer in the face of these challenges. Strategies may vary. On one hand, we can offer institutional responses: think of defences of compulsory voting as an anti-populist institutional device. On the other, we can place our hopes on citizens directly, requiring them to discharge new political obligations, such as for instance a moral duty to press their unreasonable fellow citizens. Finally, we can also try a middle way, by taking into account how other political parties ought to act in order to minimise the eventually dangerous threats that at least some forms of populism and extremism pose for liberal democracies. Questions include but are not limited to the following: 1. How are reasonable citizens supposed to face the growing unreasonableness of their fellow citizens? 2. What are the features, if any, that make populist and extremist partisans dangerous for liberal democracies? 3. How should liberal democratic parties react to populist parties and movements both in the public sphere and in government? 4. How should we structure political competition in order to reduce the impact of extreme parties? 5. Are certain institutional settings more conducive to populist parties’ electoral success than others? 6. Is there a transnational dimension of the emergence of populism and to what extent does this dimension matter?

Title Details
Winds of Change: Public Reason, the Containment of Unreasonable Views and the Role of Parties View Paper Details
Partisan Complicity in Democratic Backsliding View Paper Details
Modus Vivendi, Toleration, and the Politicised Relationship between Liberal Democracy and its Critics View Paper Details
Science Denialism, Public Reason, and Political Parties View Paper Details