Category: Podcasts

Welcome to episode four of season three of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. This episode is also the 43rd episode of the podcast and the first one since the first birthday of the podcast last week. To help celebrate the podcast’s birthday I’d appreciate it if you could share either your favourite episode of the podcast or the podcast generally with someone you think would find it interesting.
Today’s episode is about electoral reform with Dr Alan Renwick, Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit at UCL in London. Alan’s expertise lies mainly in the areas of electoral systems, referendums, and other modes of engaging the public in decision-making processes, such as citizens’ assemblies. His research is comparative: besides the UK, his recent projects have included all European democracies as well as New Zealand, Japan, and Canada. In addition to numerous journal articles, chapters and reports he is the author of two books about electoral reform: A Citizens’ Guide to Electoral Reform and The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of Democracy.
Thanks for joining me today. In the next episode I’ll be talking with Professor Pippa Norris about electoral integrity.
I am currently putting together interviews about electoral systems around the world and so far I’ve interviewed people about India, South and Southern Africa, Australia, Asia and the South Pacific and New Zealand.
I would also like to interview someone about electoral systems in Latin America but have not been successful in finding the right person to do this. If you know someone who you could fill this gap please introduce them to me via email at nivek.thompson@uts.edu.au

Check out this episode!

Welcome to episode 3 in Season 3 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. Season 3 is about elections, electoral systems, electoral reform and alternatives. In this episode I’m speaking with Professor John Gastil. John is a Professor in the Communication Arts and Sciences and Political Science at the Pennsylvania State University as well as a Senior Scholar in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. He studies political deliberation and group decision making across a range of contexts.
Recently John and Erik Olin Wright, as part of the Real Utopias project, held a three-day workshop called Legislature by Lot. Thanks to David Schecter I was able to interview John shortly after this workshop to learn more about what was discussed. Here is a copy of the agenda for the workshop which includes the attendees.
John described this workshop as ‘a deliberation about deliberation’.
John spoke about
  • the origins of the Legislature by Lot workshop [1:32]
  • the different ways to implement sortition (random selection) [3:54]
  • some of the arguments in favour of a legislature selected by lot [5:44]
  • different models of sortition [7:40]
  • responding to criticisms of legislature by lot [10:11]
  • how to design an oversight body to support a legislature selected by lot [14:10]
  • the prospect of institutional change and transition strategies [18:34]
  • moving the agenda of using sortition forward [23:43]
  • how much work is happening around the world to test and promote the use of sortition [28:35]
  • what representation and accountability means for bodies selected by sortition [30:29]
  • deliberation, consensus, contention and voting [34:35 and 38:50]
  • what the workshop agreed on [43:18]
  • what might happen after the workshop: building links between researchers and practitioners [45:34]
  • responses to critiques of empowered mini-publics [49:35]
  • when the book arising from the workshop will be published [53:07]
John mentioned the work of the Sortition Foundation, the newDemocracy Foundation to promote the use of sortition.
Thank you for joining me today. In the next episode I will be speaking to Dr Alan Renwick about electoral reform around the world [54:11].
I hope you’ll join me then.

Check out this episode!

Welcome to episode 2 of Season 3 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. Season 3 is looking at elections, electoral systems, electoral reform and alternatives.
In today’s episode, I’m talking with Professor Arend Lijphart about his work identifying two main categories of democracies which relate in part to their electoral systems.
Arend is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of California. His field of specialisation is comparative politics. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, with the two editions of his Patterns of Democracy from 1984 and 2012 being perhaps his most well-known and the subject of our conversation today.
I spoke with Professor Lijphart about
How he came to devote his life to the detailed empirical analysis of democracy in multiple countries around the world [1.10]
The relationship between his empirical work and his theory around patterns of democracy [5.30]
The variables he uses to demonstrate that consensual democracies outperform majoritarian democracies [18:35 ]
Criticisms that his approach does not apply to developing non-Western democracies [28.10]
In the next episode I’ll be talking to Professor John Gastil, a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at Penn State College of Liberal Arts, about a workshop he recently co-hosted with Erik Olin Wright, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, titled Legislature by Lot [32.37]
I hope you’ll join me then.

Check out this episode!

Thank you for joining me in episode 1 of Season 3 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. Season 3 of the podcast is looking at Elections, electoral systems, electoral reform and alternatives. As you can imagine this is a huge area to cover and I would like to thank Anika Gauja from the University of Sydney who helped me develop a broad structure for this Season.
I’m going to start looking at a few areas at a high level before moving into more detail in areas such as electoral systems around the world, negative campaigning and populism, compulsory vs voluntary voting, the various institutions and actors involved and alternatives to elections, where I’ll look at sortition and digital democracy.
In today’s episode, I’m talking to Professor David Farrell. David is a Professor of Politics in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University College Dublin. He is a specialist in the study of parties, elections, electoral systems and members of parliament. His current research focuses on the role of deliberation in constitutional reform processes.
I asked David
How would you define the term ‘electoral system’? [1:45]

How do you approach comparing so many different approaches to electoral systems around the world? [4:20]
How do you characterise different families of electoral systems? [5.00]
Could you provide an overview of the key elements of different electoral systems? [6:00]
How can everyday people evaluate the different options? [15:05]
Are there electoral reforms that warrant serious consideration that are still only theoretical i.e. they haven’t been used anywhere? [20:25]
 What do you think about the idea of using sortition to select a house of review? [22:15]
If you were asked to re-design the Irish electoral system what would it look like? [25:25]

Thank you for joining me today. In next week’s episode I’ll be talking to Emeritus Professor Arend Lijphart about his lifetime’s work. [29:40]
I hope you’ll join me then.

Check out this episode!

Welcome to episode 18 in Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. This episode is part 4 of the series where my guests share their views in response to the question: If you could change one thing about our system of democracy what would it be? And it is also the last episode in Season 2 about representative democracy. I’ll be taking a break to put together Season 3 looking at Elections, voting and alternatives.
First up let’s hear from Professor Nadia Urbinati‘s response to this question. Nadia is 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. I spoke with Nadia about the development of representative democracy in episode 2 of Season 2.
Next is Dr Simon Longstaff is the Executive Director of the Ethics Centre here in Sydney Australia. Simon was my guest in episode 17 of Season 2 talking about the relationship between democracy and ethics.
Lewis Adams who was a juror on the Infrastructure Victoria Citizens’ Jury in 2015 and a guest on Episode 17 in Season 1.
Nancy Thomas is the Director of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education in the Jonathan M Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts College. My interview with Nancy will be published in a later season of the podcast.
Helene Landemore is Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University. Her research interests encompass democratic theory, theories of justice, Enlightenment thinkers, and the philosophy of social sciences.
Jean-Paul Gagnon from the University of Canberra. Jean-Paul is a philosopher of democracy specialising in democratic theory. I spoke with Jean-Paul in Episode 6 in Season 2 about his work identifying the many adjectives associated with democracy.
Harm van Dijk is one of the founders of the G1000 in the Netherlands. I spoke with Harm in Episode 15 in Season 1 about the design of the G1000 there.
The next person to answer the question is Professor James Fishkin who holds the Janet M. Peck Chair in International Communication at Stanford University where he is Professor of Communication, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy. I spoke with Professor Fishkin about deliberative polling in episode 16 in Season 1.
Andy Holdup who was a member of the Citizens’ Assembly South in Southhampton in the UK in 2015 and also a guest on episode 17 in Season 1.
And finally, we hear from Benjamin 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. I spoke with Ben in episode 4 of Season 2 about non-Western democracy.
Thank you for joining me for Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast, looking at how representative democracy developed and how it operates. I’ll be back with Season 3 on Elections, voting and alternatives in September 2017. If you haven’t yet subscribed to the podcast, I’d suggest you do that now so that when Season 3 starts you’ll automatically have those episodes downloaded onto your podcast app.

Check out this episode!


Welcome to episode 17 in Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. Today I’m talking with Dr Simon Longstaff the Executive Director of The Ethics Centre, based in Sydney, Australia.
 
Simon began his working life on Groote Eylandt (Anindilyakwa) in the Northern Territory where he worked in the Safety Department of the then BHP subsidiary, GEMCO. He is proud of his kinship ties with members of the island’s Indigenous community. Following a period studying law in Sydney and a brief career teaching in Tasmania, Simon undertook postgraduate studies in philosophy as a Member of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Simon commenced his work as the first Executive Director of The Ethics Centre in 1991. Simon is a Fellow of CPA Australia and in June 2016, was appointed an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University based at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies. Formerly serving as the inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics, Simon serves on a number of boards and committees across a broad spectrum of activities. He was formerly a Fellow of the World Economic Forum.
 
The Ethics Centre (previously known as St James Ethics Centre) is an independent not-for-profit organisation that has been working for over 25 years to help people navigate the complexity and uncertainty of difficult ethical issues. The Ethics Centre delivers innovative programs, services and experiences, designed to bring ethics to the centre of professional and personal life, and align actions with values and principles.
 
I speak with Simon about how democracy and ethics interact, both ideally and in practice. Simon argues that “any divorce between ethics and politics completely destroys the capacity of democracy and particularly representative democracy to operate as it ought to do.”
 
The next episode of Real Democracy Now! a podcast will be the last in Season 2 and will be part 4 of the ‘one change to democracy’ set. 
 
After that, I’ll be taking a break to put together Season 3, which is all about elections, voting and alternatives. 

Check out this episode!

Welcome to episode 16 of Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. In this episode, I talk to a few of my previous guests about the relationship between representative democracy and capitalism. Some common themes emerge, specifically around the power of capital challenging the power of democratically elected governments and the problem of growing inequality and the erosion of the welfare state and social democracy.

My first guest is Professor Wolfgang Merkel who spoke about his paper Is Capitalism compatible with Democracy?

Professor Merkel 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.

Next, I spoke with Professor Leonardo Morlino who suggests that whilst we can legitimately talk about alternate systems to democracy asking about alternatives to capitalism is a rhetorical question.

Professor Morlino 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.

My third guest is Associate Professor Sofia Näsström who spoke about a paper she wrote with Sara Kalm from Lund University, titled A democratic critique of precarity in which they identify precarity as ‘as the material and psychological vulnerability resulting from neo-liberal economic reforms.’

Associate Professor Näsström is from the Department of Government, Uppsala University in Sweden. She 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.

And finally, I spoke with Professor Archon Fung about the relationship between representative democracy and free-market capitalism, and also about his work around workplace democracy. I hope to look at workplace democracy in more detail in a later season of the podcast.

Professor Fung is the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His research explores policies, practices, and institutional designs that deepen the quality of democratic governance. He focuses on public participation, deliberation, and transparency. He co-directs the Transparency Policy Project and leads democratic governance programs of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Kennedy School.

In the next episode of Real Democracy Now! a podcast I’ll be talking with Dr Simon Longstaff the Executive Director of the Ethics Centre here in Australia about ethics and democracy. He touches on democracy and capitalism too. I hope you’ll join me then.

Thank you for joining me in episode 15 in Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast.
I ask all of my guests two questions:
  1. what for them is the essence of a real democracy? and
  2. if they could change one thing about our system of democracy what would it be?

This episode is the third episode where I’ve put together a range of my guests’ answers to the question:

If you could change one thing about our system of democracy, what would it be?

We are very near the end of Season 2 – only three episodes to go and I will soon be starting interviews for Season 3 about elections, voting and alternatives.

I intend to continue to ask all of my guests their view on what is the essence of a real democracy.

I’m thinking of replacing the ‘one change’ question from Season 3 onwards and would appreciate your ideas on a new question. 

Please send your suggestions either via email to nivek@realdemocracynow.com.au or let me know via Twitter or Facebook. I’ll be starting the interviews for Season 3 soon and would like to have the new question ready for those interviews.

First up we hear from Professor Gerry Stoker who was part of episode 12 in Season 2 talking about the democratic deficit. Gerry is Professor of Governance within Social Sciences: Politics and International Relations at the University of Southampton. He is also the Centenary Professor of Governance in the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra. In this episode, Gerry outlines both what his research says about what citizens would like changed as well as sharing his views.

The next person is Dr Roslyn Fullerwho was my guest on episode 2 in Season 2 talking about the role of direct democracy in ancient Athens.Roslyn is a Canadian-Irish academic and columnist, specializing in public international law, and the impact of technological innovation on democracy.She’d like to see quite dramatic change, although she does recognise it may take time.

Up next is Max Hardy who was a guest in Season 1 episode 11 talking about facilitating deliberative mini-publics in Australia. Max is the Principal at Max Hardy Consulting where he works with leaders and organisations to achieve results through collaboration. Not surprisingly Max would like to see citizens involved more directly in decision-making.

Carolyn Lukensmeyerwas also a guest in Season 1 episode 13 talking about her work with America Speaks. Carolyn is currently the Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, an organisation in the United States that works to reduce political dysfunction and incivility in the political system. She identifies two changes, both institutional, that she would like to see.

Ben McPeek shared his experience as a member of the Residents’ Reference Panel for the Davenport Community Rail Overpass project in episode 17 of Season 1. He identifies the need to respect expertise.

Caroline Victor was a member of the Dogs and Cats Citizens’ Jury in South Australia and was also part of episode 17 in Season 1. She would like democracy to make more use of technology.

I first spoke with Didier Caluwaertsin episode 14 in Season 1 about the G1000 in Belgium.Didier is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the VUB. He would like to set up systems which support a long-term focus in decision-making.

Emily Jenke shared her experiences designing and facilitating deliberative mini-publics in South Australia in episode 10 of Season 1. Emily is a co-CEO of Democracy Co a consultancy focused on helping people come together to consider complex issues and make lasting decisions. She identifies two changes both of which are structural.

And finally, Professor Janette Hartz-Karp would I spoke with in episode 5 of Season 1 about her work in Western Australia designing and managing large deliberative mini-publics. Janette is a Professor in the Sustainability Policy Unit at Curtin University in Western Australia. Janette would like to see much more co-decision making.

Thank you for joining me today. In the next episode of Real Democracy Now! a podcast I’ll be talking to a number of people about the relationship between representative democracy and capitalism. I hope you’ll join me then.

 

Check out this episode!

Welcome to this bonus episode in Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. Season 2 is about representative democracy and this episode is about the democratic deficit.

In episodes 12 and 13 of Season 2 I spoke to a range of academics about the democratic deficit arising from declining levels of trust and structural aspects of our current system of representative democracy.

Today I talk with Professor Pippa Norris about the democratic deficit arising from the gap between people’s expectations of democracy and their perception of its performance.

Pippa is the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard University where she has taught for two decades. She is also ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. She is a political scientist focusing on democracy and development, public opinion and elections, political communications, and gender politics. She directs The Electoral Integrity Project, a multimillion dollar six-year research project with a team based at Sydney and Harvard.

She has published almost forty books, two of which are particularly relevant to my discussion with her today Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Governance, published in 1999 and Democratic Deficit: Critical Citizens Revisited, published in 2011. She continues to work in this area and she is currently writing a new book Democratic Deficits: Rising Aspirations, Negative News or Failing Performance?.

Thank you for joining me for this bonus episode. I will be talking to Pippa again in Season 3 about The Electoral Integrity Project.

In Episode 14 of Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast I’m talking with Quinton Mayne, Associate Professor of Public Policy in the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation in the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Quinton received his Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University. His dissertation, entitled The Satisfied Citizen: Participation, Influence, and Public Perceptions of Democratic Performance, won the American Political Science Association’s 2011 Ernst B. Haas Best Dissertation Award in European Politics as well as the 2011 Best Dissertation Award in Urban Politics. Mayne’s research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of comparative and urban politics. He is particularly interested in how the design and reform of democratic political institutions affect how citizens think and act politically.
 
I first came across Quinton early in my own PhD studies, finding his dissertation online and being very taken with the idea that satisfaction with democracy could be demonstrably increased by devolving power and authority to local government. In this episode Quinton talks about States of Satisfaction a book he is writing based on his PhD research as well as other research he is undertaking with Associate Professor Armen Hakhverdian looking at the impact of ideological congruence on citizen satisfaction and with Professor Brigitte Geißel to develop an approach for including citizens in the evaluation of democratic quality. 
 
Thank you for joining me today. The next episode of Real Democracy Now! a podcast will be the third episode in the ‘One change to democracy’ series where you’ll hear from a range of my guests answering the question ‘if you could change one thing about democracy what would it be?’ I hope you’ll join me then.

Check out this episode!

Scroll to top