The latest podcast episode asks "What keeps democracies alive?"

Recording equipment at the IWM

The newest episode of our podcast Democracy in Question? asks how we can foster and nurture democratic spaces and practices in our societies.

The Democracy in Question? podcast series has often focused on the serious challenges that democracies all over the world face today. It has also highlighted how they can and are degenerating and morphing into authoritarianism. In a new episode released today, current IWM Visiting Fellow, Professor Till Van Rahden flips the perspective to understand how we can foster and nurture democratic spaces and practices in our societies. He discusses why we should move beyond an institutional and a normative view of democracy as a system of government. More generally, the episode explores how democracy is a fragile way of life that needs constant care and how it can be protected. 

For Professor Van Rahden, what is “often lost in contemporary conversations about democracies [is that] democracies do not exist in thin air. A democratic government presupposes something very elusive that we usually call a democratic culture or that we usually conceptualize as the cultural and social foundations of democracy”. He draws on Walt Whitman to argue that “how we interact as citizens, how we live together in a democratic fashion, [is] foundational, not just to a democratic way of life, but to a democratic system of government”.

How can the vitality of democratic life be maintained and nurtured during the current pandemic, when use of public spaces is restricted and physical distance is required? Professor Van Rahden suggests “public sociability” is essential: “Keep the parks open if possible. Try to find ways of keeping the libraries [and] a museum open, so that a rudimentary form of democratic commons is sustained or maintained”.

To listen to the latest episode, and catch up on the rest of the series, please visit the podcast page on our website by clicking here.