- what for them is the essence of a real democracy? and
- if they could change one thing about our system of democracy what would it be?
Welcome to episode 9 in season 2 of Real Democracy Now! A podcast.
In today’s episode, I’m talking to Associate Professor Sofia Näsström from the Department of Government, at the Uppsala University in Sweden. Sofia works in the field of political theory, with a particular focus on issues related to democracy, constituent power, the people, the right to have rights, representation, freedom and precarity. She is currently working on a monograph entitled The Spirit of Democracy: Thinking Democracy beyond the Nation-State.
Sofia is a democratic theorist and I talk with her about who is being represented in representative democracies, the difference between democratic and non-democratic representation and her work identifying the spirit of democracy.
Sofia will also be part of a later episode considering the relationship between democracy and capitalism. In next week’s episode, I will be move from considering theory by taking an ‘empirical turn’ with Professor John Keane talking his work on monitory democracy. I hope you’ll join me then.
Today I’m speaking with Professor Archon Fung. Professor Fung is the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
I talk to Professor Fung about the concept of ‘pragmatic democracy’ which he describes as being focused on outcomes and then looking at different approaches to democracy to determine which ones will get us closer to those outcomes. In some ways, this approach is similar to the problem-based approach described by Professor Warren in the last episode. He also expands on his article Our desperate need to save US democracy from ourselves from December 2016.
Today I’m speaking with Professor Mark Warren. Mark is the Harold and Dorrie Merilees Chair in the Study of Democracy in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia where he established the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions.
He notes that different democratic practices are better at delivering some of these than others and so we should be looking a mix of practices to complement each other and deliver all three functions. He proposes supplementing and layering innovations on top of electoral democracy to create stronger democracies.
I ask all of my guests two questions:
Welcome to episode 4 of Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! A podcast. Today’s episode is about non-Western democracy. I’d like to thank David Schecter for bringing this area of democratic thinking and practice to my attention and for introducing me to my two guests: Associate Professor Benjamin Isakhan and PhD scholar Zelalem Sirna from Ethiopia. Both guests highlight the Eurocentric nature of much of the discourse on democracy and introduce us to some non-western examples of democratic practice.
Benjamin Isakhan 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 (Routledge, 2012 HB, 2016 PB) and the editor of 6 books including The Secret History of Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011 HB, 2012 PB – translated into Japanese 2012, and Arabic 2014), and The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy: From Pre-History to Future Possibilities (Edinburgh University Press & Oxford University Press, 2012 HB, 2015 PB). He is a leading expert and regular commentator on Middle Eastern Politics, Democracy and Democratization across the Middle East, and Heritage Destruction in the Middle East.
Zelalem Sirna is a PhD scholar at the University of Coimbra in Portugal in the programme of Democracy in 21sy Century. He earned his LL.B degree in law from the Haramaya University Ethiopia and his MPhil in Indigenous Studies from University of Tromso, Norway. For his Masters, he undertook a comparative study of Gadaa, the traditional system of governance in Ethiopia and liberal democracy. For his Ph, he is looking at deliberative democracy, deliberative systems and the Gadaa system. As a sociology-legal researcher, is main works are focused on normative pluralism and the challenges it poses in 21st century.
The next episode will consider what my guests think is the one change they would like to see in our system of democracy. I ask all of my guests the same two questions:
1. what for you is the essence of a real democracy and
2. if you could change one thing about our current system of democracy what would it be.
I’d love to hear your answers to these two questions and include your perspectives in future episodes. You can send your perspectives to me by email to email@example.com or via Twitter or Facebook.
Thank you for joining me in the third episode of Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! A podcast. Season 2 is looking at representative democracy and today I am talking with three academics who take different approaches to evaluating representative democracy. These three approaches are by no means the only ones, in fact, there are many indexes and evaluation frameworks in existence. Which is why Dan Pemstein with his colleagues Stephen Meserve and James Melton created the United Democracy Scores to integrate a number of these into one measure.
First up, I speak to 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 (Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece), Eastern Europe, and the phenomenon of democratization. He is the author of several books and more than 200 journal essays and book chapters published in English, French, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Chinese, Mongolian, and Japanese. In 2015 -16 he has been conducting research on how the economic crisis affected South European democracies and on the economic and fiscal choices of democracies in the same area within an EU Horizon 2020 grant.
Professor Morlino talks to us about the analytical tool he has developed to allow comparison of democracies.
Next, I talk with 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 is the focus of my discussion with Professor Merkel today.
Finally, I spoke with Daniel Pemstein. Dan is an assistant professor of political science at North Dakota State University. He is a methodologist who specialises in measurement and builds statistical tools to answer substantive questions in comparative legislative studies and political economy. He is involved in a number of statistical projects, including two I’ll be talking to him about today: the Varieties of Democracy Project and the Unified Democracy Scores.
Thanks for joining me today. We’ll be hearing from Professors Morlino and Merkel again later in Season 2 when we look at the challenges facing democracy and the relationship between democracy and capitalism. Next week’s episode covers a topic mentioned today, that is ‘non-Western democracy’. I’ll be speaking to Associate Professor Benjamin Isakhan about democracy in the Middle East and Zelalem Sirna about Ethiopian democracy. I hope you’ll join me then.
Dr Roslyn Fuller (dipl. jur./erstes Staatsexamen, Goettingen; PhD, Trinity College Dublin) is a Canadian-Irish academic and columnist, specializing 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.
Nadia Urbinati is a Professor of Political Theory and Hellenic Studies at Columbia University. She is a political theorist who specializes 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.