Episode 3
Undermining Democracy by Democratic Means: how can we stop it?

As the results of the 2020 US election are trickling in, we are exploring how laws – and notably electoral laws – can be used to dismantle the constitutional systems from within. The undermining of democracy evokes sharp images of authoritarianism and a contempt for libertarianism. Instead, what we are facing today is a deceptive onslaught through political and legal machinations, hollowing out the fundamental processes of freedom that lie at the heart of democracy and institutional legitimacy. In the third episode of Democracy in Question?, IWM Rector and host of this podcast, Shalini Randeria asks Kim Lane Scheppele (Princeton University) how liberal principles and institutions are being subverted while using electoral majorities. They explore democracy’s “democratic undoing” by elected leaders who use democratic mandates to undermine and subvert the constitutional systems of checks and balances that they inherited. Referring to this phenomenon, Kim Lane Scheppele has coined the provocative term of “autocratic legalism” to explain the rise of soft authoritarian regimes. Her conversation with Shalini Randeria focuses on these developments, uncovering the origins and threats to democracy and exploring prescriptions for the resurgence of democracy.

Latest Episodes

  • Episode 5
    ‘Soft Authoritarianism’, a New Face of Electoral Democracy?

    A new kind of elected leader has emerged across the globe: one who rules with a large parliamentary majority and this with a claim to democratic legitimacy, but who uses power to hollow out democracy from the inside. So is such ‘soft authoritarianism’ that uses the law to undermine liberal principles a new face of electoral democracy? Professor John Keane(University of Sydney) helps us dissect this pervasive pattern of new despotisms and their strategies of rule.
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  • Episode 4
    Can Liberal Democracies Right the Wrongs of Racial and Gender Injustices?

    We have recently seen millions of people taking to the streets to protest social, political and environmental injustices. Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop protesters across the world from showing their support to the Black Lives Matter movement. In this episode, we’re joined by Professor Nancy Fraser (The New School) and ask: can liberal democracy provide the distributive justice citizens seem to crave?
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  • Episode 3
    Undermining Democracy by Democratic Means: how can we stop it?

    As the results of the 2020 US election are trickling in, we are taking a look at how laws - and notably electoral laws - can be used to dismantle the constitutional systems from within. In this episode, our guest Professor Kim Lane Sheppele (Princeton University) helps us understand how a new kind of elected leader is using their democratic mandates to take the whole system apart, how they are getting away with it and what we can do to stop it.
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  • Episode 2
    How Viable is Western Liberal Democracy when Transplanted Across the World?

    In this episode of Democracy in Question? Shalini Randeria asks if the ideals of liberal democracy – free and fair elections, separation of powers, rule of law and respect for human rights – may be exported easily from the West to other parts of the world? This is a question especially salient when some of these very ideals are being undermined in several countries including the United States (more about this question in the first episode? Further, Prof. Randeria asks her guests, Laurence Whitehead and Yanina Welp, if Western models of democracy ought to be transplanted to other regions of the world at all?
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  • Episode 1
    A Trumpian Blip or a Fundamental Flaw in American Democracy?

    In this episode, Shalini Randeria explores in a conversation with Timothy Snyder the reasons behind Trump’s access to power, the propensities that Trumpian politics shares with fascism, the unaddressed original sins of American democracy, as well as the future predicaments for democracy opening up in the wake of Trump.
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  • Introducing Democracy in Question

    Today, liberal democracies are under unprecedented strain from within and without. In each episode, renowned social anthropologist and IWM rector Shalini Randeria invites a leading scholar to explore the challenges and dilemmas facing democracies around the world. They investigate what needs to be done to ensure the future well-being of our democratic institutions and practices.
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