Building: VMP 8 Floor: 1 Room: 106
In times when conventional political participation is declining and a growing dissatisfaction with traditional, representative democratic institutions can be observed, there are often calls for alternative forms of political decision-making. One research area that has become increasingly popular in this context focuses on direct democratic procedures. Supporters of direct democracy argue that such procedures will strengthen the responsiveness of the political system towards its citizens and, in turn, consolidate legitimacy and increase public support for the democratic system in general.
But which effects do direct democratic procedures really have? Existing studies on direct democracy and its (socio-) economic, legal, and political effects are, at least to some extent, inconsistent. On the one hand, direct democratic procedures give citizens an important voice in concrete political issues, which can lead to policy results that reflect the will of the majority to a greater extent as compared to its representative counterparts. Moreover, comparative studies from Switzerland found that the existence of direct democracy is associated with a higher per capita income. While these results generally speak in favor of direct democracy as a means of political decision making, other studies have, on the other hand, pointed out that direct democratic procedures often go hand in hand with a lower government budget, which can fundamentally endanger socially weak citizens who strongly depend on social welfare. This, in turn, might lead to an increased socio-economic inequality within society. Other issues such as higher social selection, relatively low voter turnouts, or the potential discrimination against certain minorities are, according to different studies, also associated with direct democratic procedures and have to be viewed critically in this context.
The panel is based on the DFG-funded research project “Inequality and direct democracy in Europe”. It will discuss a variety of topics regarding the interaction of direct democratic procedures and inequality from different perspectives and with empirical evidence from all over the world. In this way, the panel can help to gain new insights in this research area and, at the same time, promote further academic collaboration among researchers.