Democratic governance in the context of global crisis

A key research stream of ISES examines a basic paradox of governance that play out at multiple levels and paralizes democratic polity. The paradox stems from the fact that the political system of modern democracy has been tailored to the nation state, while the most burning challenges that democracies are facing are global (global labor competition, the power of multinational companies and international organizations, a new financial capitalism with its unrestricted global flows of capital, climate change, global migration, cultural globalization, terrorism). Although these global problems would call for sustainable and justifiable - that means, democratic - solutions, what we find instead are selfish nation states, back stage arrangements, unaccountable international politicking, narrow-minded political leaders playing for their home audiences, nationalist movements, and a general state of paralysis. The global crisis of democratic governance gradually eats up the hinterland of democracy: electorates who feel their needs for accountable and fair solutions to be chronically unfulfilled turn increasingly to their fears and narrow interests, or simply turn off.

The above ambivalences reveal fundamental flaws in the working of democracy today. Indeed, the problem we face is not only that the democratic sovereignty of the nation state has been overuled by global forces. The burning question is whether it is possible to handle global problems in a democratic way at all in today's age, when the political system of democracy is not able to measure up to its own standards and suffers a lack of legitimacy at every possible level of governance, from the municipal to the national and the international.

The ISES academic community believes, in league with a large coalition of international intellectuals, that democracies today need a fresh start that could catapult them from their multi-level dysfunctions. Since these flaws are heavily intrconnected, it would be a mistake to name a specific locus for democratic reform. The dysfunctional democratic system of the nation state could hardly be revitalized without the interventions of supranational political entities or the pressures of global civil society. Meanwhile, the above transnational political actors can hardly win the legitimacy and the power that they need to effectively function without the support of well-functioning democratic nation states. These complex challenges delienate several key areas for the research of democratic governance.

Read more about ISES research on democratic governance

1. Reinventing the European Union.

Read more about our research on Citizenship in the European Union.

Read The Multiple Crisis of Europe from Ferenc Miszlivetz.

 

2. Inventing global networks of governance.

Read Whose Rules? Governing Globalization in a Multi-Stakeholder World from Jody P. Jensen.

 

3. Reinventing representative democracy.

Read Democracy and Civil Society. Outlines of a New Paradigm from Ferenc Miszlivetz.

Read Mediatized Politics in Late Capitalism from Péter Csigó.

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