2.13 Democratic deficit , structural aspects with Professors Urbinati, Hindess, Merkel and Morlino plus Dr Fuller & A/Prof Isakhan
Welcome to Episode 13 of Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. In today’s episode, we are talking at the democratic deficit again, this time focusing more on structural aspects of democracy.
First up I talk to Professor Nadia Urbinati. Nadia is a Professor of Political Theory and Hellenic Studies at Columbia University. She is a political theorist who specialises in modern and contemporary political thought and the democratic and anti-democratic traditions. Nadia has written extensively on democracy including two books: Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy, Democracy Disfigured, and Mill on Democracy: From the Athenian Polis to Representative Government.
I first spoke to Nadia in episode 2 of Season 2 of the podcast where she spoke about the origins and components of representative democracy. Today Nadia talks about the democracy deficit as well as her book Democracy Disfigured, where she identifies three types of democratic disfigurement: the unpolitical, the populist and the plebiscitarian.
My second guest is Emeritus Professor Barry Hindess. Barry is Emeritus Professor in the School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. Like many senior academics he has published more than he cares to remember, including Discourses of Power: from Hobbes to Foucault, Governing Australia: studies in contemporary rationalities of government (with Mitchell Dean), Corruption and Democracy in Australia, Us and them: elites and anti-elitism in Australia (with Marian Sawer)and papers on neo-liberalism, liberalism and empire and the temporalizing of difference.
I came across Barry’s 2002 paper Deficit by Design early in my PhD studies and it was my introduction to the idea that the structure of representative democracy was itself one of the key limitations for the system of democracy. Barry’s argument is “that the problem of democratic deficit is in fact the normal condition of the institutions of representative government… [concluding that] democratic deficit is an integral part of its design.” Barry is now retired so I am very grateful that he made the time to talk with me for this episode.
My third guest is Professor Wolfgang Merkel, who is the Director of the Research Unit: Democracy and Democratization at the WZB Social Science Research Centre Berlin, as well as heading up the Centre for Global Constitutionalism and a number of other projects. He has written widely on democracy, democratisation, social democracy and democracy & capitalism to name but a few in academic and non-academic publications. Professor Merkel is a co-project leader of the Democracy Barometer. This project developed an instrument to assess the quality of democracy in 30 established democracies and was the focus of my discussion with Professor Merkel in episode 2. 3
My fourth guest is Professor Leonardo Morlino who is a professor of political science and director of the Research Center on Democracies and Democratizations at LUISS, Rome. Prof. Morlino is a leading specialist in comparative politics with expertise on Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, and the phenomenon of democratization. Professor Morlino has been part of a few other episodes – episode 2.3 explaining his analytical approach to evaluating democracy, episode 2.12 about trust and the democratic deficit and he will be on a future episode talking about the relationship between representative democracy and capitalism.
My fifth guest is Dr Roslyn Fuller, a Canadian-Irish academic and columnist, specialising in public international law, and the impact of technological innovation on democracy. Her latest book Beasts and Gods: How Democracy Changed Its Meaning and Lost Its Purpose explores the flaws of representative democracy and how they could be addressed through the application of ancient Athenian principles of demokratia (people power). Her work has appeared, among others, in OpenDemocracy, The Nation, The Toronto Star, Salon and The Irish Times, as well as in many scholarly journals. She is currently a Research Associate at Waterford Institute of Technology and founding member of the Solonian Democracy Institute.
Roslyn was also my guest in episode 2.2 talking about her research on democracy in ancient Athens and how we might apply Athenian direct today. Like Nadia Urbinati, Roslyn is concerned about the impact of money on democracy.
And finally, we hear from Associate Professor Ben Isakhan who is Associate Professor of Politics and Policy Studies and Founding Director of POLIS, a research network for Politics and International Relations in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization at Deakin University, Australia. He is also Adjunct Senior Research Associate, in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa and an Associate of the Sydney Democracy Network at the University of Sydney, Australia. Ben is the author of Democracy in Iraq: History, Politics, Discourse and the editor of six books including The Secret History of Democracy, and The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy: From Pre-History to Future Possibilities. Ben was my guest on episode 2. 4 talking about non-Western democracy. Today he talks about the challenges to “brand democracy.”
In the next episode of Real Democracy Now! a podcast I will be talking to Quinton Mayne, an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University about his research on satisfaction with democracy. I hope you’ll join me then.