Democracy for losers

Sunday, 5. February 2017
OUPblog – Oxford University Press's Academic Insights

"Democracy is under threat everywhere. Growing numbers of citizens prefer authoritarian ideas, and politicians nurturing those wishes are on the rise in Hungary, Poland, France, Turkey, Germany, and the United States—to mention only the most salient examples. By now pundits everywhere have expressed concern about “populism” and the cementation of “illiberal” or “defected” democracies. Populist politicians all stress that they speak for the “people” and articulate demands that are “suppressed” by a dominating elite—that is, by a minority. Whereas Viktor Orbán and Recep Erdoğan mobilize large majorities, this is certainly not true for Marine Le Pen or Donald Trump. While these distinctions are important, they do not affect the main point at issue. What makes the discussions complicated is the fact that democracy is threatened by democratic means: When citizens prefer authoritarian ideas, shouldn’t democracy meet these demands? (...)

Jan W. van Deth is Emeritus Professor of Political Science and International Comparative Social Research at the University of Mannheim (Germany) and Project Director at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES). He is the author of numerous publications on democracy and participation, including “What Is Political Participation?” in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics."

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