New Podcast: Democracy in Question

Most of the world’s population lives in a formal democracy today. But in both established and new democracies, trust in parliaments and political parties is plummeting. Worldwide, they are being torn apart by inequalities, political polarization and a politics of hate. Citizens are using the streets and the courts to challenge authority and to seek the accountability that is often missing at the ballot boxes. The form, content, institutions, practices and, ultimately, the very principles of liberal democracy are being called into question from India to Hungary and from Brazil to the US.

Democracy in Question is the new podcast series of the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Vienna and the Albert Hirschman Center on Democracy at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. Hosted by Shalini Randeria, Rector of the IWM, Director of the Centre at the Graduate Institute, and Excellence Chair, University of Bremen (Research Group: Soft Authoritarianism), it features some of the most important voices in contemporary academia.

Together they reflect on democratic experiences and experiments the world over and explore whether this crisis of democracy represents a historically unique challenge or whether parallels to political crises in the past can be discerned. Why have democratic institutions lost their legitimacy along with their capacity to mitigate inequalities by righting the wrongs of economic, racial and gender injustice? How can the disenfranchisement and disillusionment especially of impoverished and marginalized sections of the population be transformed into enthusiasm for democratic participation? And in the midst of crises, can we also see tendencies that point to a renewal and reform of democracy?

Democracy in Question will feature 10 episodes, one every two weeks, starting from 8th October. While each episode addresses issues concerning the contemporary challenges to democracy in different contexts, the series is also committed to exploring themes in the longue durée of democracy that have occupied social scientists for decades.

Join Shalini Randeria and leading scholars for an exploration of the dilemmas facing democracies worldwide. Subscribe now, wherever you get your podcasts!

See all episodes here!

This podcast series is co-produced by the Graduate Institute’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) Vienna, in cooperation with Research Group: Soft Authoritarianism, University of Bremen and in collaboration with Richard Miron and Anouk Millet (Earshot strategies).



Latest Episodes

  • Episode 7
    How Does Austerity Politics Weaken Democracy?

    Since the introduction of neoliberal policies under Thatcher and Reagan many countries worldwide have implemented austerity politics that dismantled social security programs by cutting public funding. Our guest today, the renowned British economist, Lord Robert Skidelsky has argued that liberal democracy rests on a welfare state, so that austerity politics and the rise of populism in the West are interlinked.
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  • Episode 6
    What will remain of Trumpism going forward?

    Joe Biden was declared the next president of the United States over a month ago now, but Donald Trump has not yet concededhis own defeat. Claiming voter fraud he has launched legal battles to try to undo the results of the election, to no avail. What mechanisms, institutions and narratives has he used? And to what long term effects? In this episode, we are joined by Professor Timothy Snyder (Yale University) and Ivan Krastev (Centre for Liberal Strategies and IWM) to understand what will remain of Trumpism going forward and how it will impact democratic legitimacy the world over.
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  • 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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