Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB); Humboldt University Berlin
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The world has been confronted with at least four different types of crisis since the turn of the century: First, the Great Financial Crisis and the Euro-Crisis after 2008; second, the migration crisis in 2015 and thereafter; third, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020; and fourth, the accelerated and ongoing crisis of climate change. What do these crises have in common and which impact will they have on the quality and stability of liberal and illiberal democracies? Which are the causes and consequences of these crises for democracy in the 21st century? The main hypothesis is the following: Crises leave problematic legacies for democracies. They produce increasing uncertainties for politicians and citizens. They change the consciousness of the people and the working of core institutions of democracy, such as the legislative and executive. They create tensions between security and liberties. The higher the uncertainties, the more often citizens demand security and the more they are willing to exchange it for liberties if 'necessary'. Crisis after crisis leaves corrosive legacies for democracy. They pile up in sediments and change the liberal working of democracies. They change their contents while their forms persist. There will be shifts from input (participation) and throughput (decision-making and control) towards output and outcomes, from representation to science (evidence-based policy making), from liberalism to illiberalism. We might be witnesses of the emergence of elitist and output-oriented 'epistemic democracies'. The demos will applaud in its majority. Democracies of the 21st century will be different and less democratic than those at the end of the 20th century.