Anxieties of democracy

(Sorgen um die Demokratie in Europa und Nordamerika)

Funded by: German Research Foundation (DFG) in cooperation with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)
Funding period: 2016-2019

Principal investigators: Claudia Landwehr, Thomas Saalfeld, Armin Schäfer

Most major advanced liberal democracies are facing testing times. Some recent policy challenges such as international or homegrown terrorism and security or the recent crises of financial markets and sovereign debt have had serious implications for the working of democratic institutions and democratic legitimacy. While these events appeared as relatively sudden shocks, other fundamental challenges have been in the making for some time. Climate change, demographic change and immigration, or the growing levels of social inequality in highly developed market economies resemble slow-moving yet powerful glaciers rather than the sudden ‘earthquakes’ referred to before. Nevertheless, like glaciers, they are capable of causing great destruction. They may require new technical instruments at the disposal of policy makers, but they also affect the way democratic institutions work. Although the visible impact even of severe crises on the political institutions of modern democracies may have been surprisingly limited in the short run (Kahler and Lake 2013), they have raised familiar questions about the ability of liberal democratic institutions to cope with these challenges. These doubts are evident both at the elite and popular levels (for the latter see Pharr and Putnam 2000). The extension of the SSRC program ‘Anxieties of Democracy’ to Europe enables the inclusion of a stronger comparative component will allow researchers to explore more rigorously the implications of these challenges beyond the context of a single polity. 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 will enhance the collaboration between European and American researchers and advance research on contemporary challenges of democracy through a series of conferences and workshops, visiting fellowships and joint publications.

Weitere Informationen finden Sie auf der Projekthomepage