Institutionalisation of Political Parties: Comparative Cases. Edited by Robert Harmel and Lars G. Svasand

The Diversity of Democratic Innovations - Adapting Democratic Innovations to Different Challenges of Democracy

Civil Society
Comparative Politics
Political Participation
Normative Theory
Section Number
Section Chair
Staffan Himmelroos
University of Turku
Section Co-Chair
Simon Beste
University of Lucerne

The last two decades have engendered a plethora of democratic innovations designed to supplement and improve our democracies. The main reason behind this development are the apparent challenges facing representative democracies in their traditional form. In addition to the eroding legitimacy of its central institutions, representative democracy is facing external challenges. Designed for spatially contained sovereign nation states, modern representative democracies are situated in a global and transnational world having to cope with problems beyond their control. Apparent indicators of these pathologies are declining levels of turnout and trust as well as a rising political disenchantment and a new wave of emerging anti-establishment parties (or party candidates).

While, most democracies show symptoms related to the democratic malaise— the extent and range of the symptoms vary. Considering the complexity of the challenging influences representative democracies are exposed to and the variance of institutional configurations themselves, it is improbable that there is a universal cure for liberal democracy. Hence, we think it is important to highlight the multitude of techniques and methods that have been devised in order to fight the illnesses of democracy. We want to acknowledge the importance of assigning the right cures to the illnesses of democracy. What are the institutional design choices and reforms best adapted to improve representative democracy or at least to alleviate the symptoms of the democratic malaise?

The Section is structured along the following topics, tackling central themes and questions involved with the diversity of democratic innovations:

Participatory versus deliberative innovations?
• Are participatory and deliberative elements compatible in practice or do they sometimes countervail or cancel out one another?

Analytic systematization of democratic innovations
• In the light of the rapid changes involved with democratic innovations, is it possible/necessary to create new or update old taxonomies of “types of innovations”?

Democratic systems and scaling up democratic innovations
• What is the role of democratic innovations in a larger democratic system? Can different innovations be combined in order to present a more powerful cure?

Preliminary Panels:

Panel 1: Diversity and disagreement in deliberative politics
Chair: Kimmo Grönlund (Åbo Akademi University)
Co-chair: André Bächtiger (University of Stuttgart)

According to the deliberative ideal, people should listen to other individuals whose views and values differ from their own and engage in constructive and respectful dialogue. Thus, most deliberative enterprises have been constructed along the ideal of diversity. In real life politics, however, political discussion often occurs in more like-minded settings, at least before taking place at the cross-cutting institutionalized democratic level. A traditional example would be intra-party discussions before a municipal council meeting or before a parliamentary debate. The Panel invites Papers, which address the role of diversity and disagreement in deliberation.

Panel 2: Liberal Democracy, Populism, and the Role of Democratic Innovations
Chair: Jonathan Kuyper (Stockholm University)
Co-chair: Fabio Wolkenstein (Goethe University Frankfurt)

Contemporary liberal democracies are confronted with serious mistrust of established democratic institutions and the rise of anti-system populist movements that defy the norms and rules we have grown accustomed to. What can normative democratic theory say about overcoming these problems? In particular, what role can designed democratic innovations play in rectifying it? Can democratic innovations save liberal democracy?

Panel 3: The newer, the better? Comparing traditional and innovative participatory formats
Chair: Joan Font (Institute for Advanced Social Studies, Spain)
Co-chair: Thamy Pogrebinschi (WZB, Germany)

The generalized use of the concept “democratic innovations” suggests that a set of entirely new institutional designs may offer enhanced opportunities for participation and deliberation. However, participatory institutions existed previously and have been operating for decades. Long before the concept “democratic innovations” there was local consultation councils in many European and Latin American countries or national referendums and initiatives, or assembly-based models of governance in local communities. The main goal of this Panel is to discuss whether there is indeed two generations of participatory institutions, and compare the different institutional designs that belong to each of them.

Panel 4: Deliberative Behavior
Chair: Marina Lindell (Åbo Akademi University)
Co-chair: Julia Jennståhl (Uppsala University)

This workshop focuses on individuals' deliberative conduct, citizens and politicians alike. Research about what exactly happens in the group setting (or in individuals’ mind) and how individuals perform in deliberation is surprisingly scarce. Deliberation is mainly perceived of as a group-based phenomenon expected to prompt deep thought and open-mindedness. Yet, we know that individuals tend to respond differently to deliberation, depending on a number of factors such as framing, personality variables, strength of attitudes and emotions. This Panel addresses normative, theoretical as well as empirical dimensions of deliberative performance.

Panel 5: Democratic Innovations and Local Representative Democracy
Chair: Angelika Vetter
Co-chair: Brigitte Geissel

In order to mitigate various shortcomings of modern democracies especially in local politics where citizens, public administrations and politics are currently experimenting with “new” forms of citizens’ involvement. Such democratic innovations aim at direct problem-solving without the intervention of public authorities. Many of these efforts are currently to be observed across Europe especially in local politics. One of the advantages of local politics research is the high number of cases that can be studied and compared within but also across countries.

Biographies of Section Chairs:
Staffan Himmelroos is an Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher at the Social Science Research Institute at the Åbo Akademi University. His main research interests are deliberative democracy and political behaviour, especially the limits and potential for political reasoning. He is part of a team that has organized a number of deliberative citizen forums and has published research on democratic innovations and deliberation in Political Studies, Social Science Journal, Scandinavian Political Studies, Information Polity among others.

Simon Beste is a PhD candidate at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. His dissertation project aims to measure and evaluate deliberative quality at the systemic level. His main methodological interests are in natural language processing, machine learning, topic modeling, and content analysis. Current and ongoing projects also involve monitoring and evaluating of small-scaled deliberative experiments. His work has been published in the Journal of Public Deliberation, Acta Politica and the Journal Of Legislative Studies.

Panel List

P036Can New Technologies Improve Democratic Innovations? Challenges and Risks of Digital Devices for Democracy View Panel Details
P085Deliberative Behavior View Panel Details
P087Democratic Innovations and Local Democracy View Panel Details
P088Democratic Innovations at the Local Level View Panel Details
P089Democratic Innovations from a Citizen Perspective View Panel Details
P096Disagreement and Diversity in Deliberative Democracy View Panel Details
P204Liberal Democracy, Populism, and the Role of Democratic Innovations View Panel Details
P212Locating Deliberative Democracy’s Normative Principles in Real-World Political Practice View Panel Details
P405The Newer, the Better? Comparing Traditional and Innovative Participatory Formats View Panel Details
P409The Place of Innovation View Panel Details
Share this page

"Nothing in politics is ever as good or bad as it first appears" - Edward Boyle

Back to top