In recent years, the promise of emancipatory democratic statehood has inspired uprisings, revolutions, and unilateral interventions into other nations' affairs. 'Democracy' appears to be a cherished value for the actors in such situations. Yet ethnographic research is making some intriguing discoveries in this regard. Growing numbers of former pro-democracy activists in emerging democracies such as Indonesia or Kenya have come to view the democratic ideal with suspicion or disdain, perceiving it to be inherently ineffective or morally flawed. In the established democracies of Europe and North America, apparent advocates of democratic principles now seem to be tacitly renouncing them in favour of technocratic managerialism, and ‘apathetic’ forms of citizenship. Why? Our conference aims to solve this puzzle.
Scholars in political science, geography and sociology have explained such a phenomenon, which they label ‘post-democracy’, in terms of the increasing power that global corporations hold over nation-states and the technical complexity of current policy issues. This leaves several questions unanswered, and these will be at the heart of our workshop. How, exactly, might such structural factors prompt changes in the intensely personal arena of political belief? Are seemingly ‘post-democratic’ practices necessarily underpinned by post-democratic values? What other factors or circumstances might prompt people to discard the democratic ideal they previously subscribed to? To what alternatives do they turn?
Drawing together experts from diverse disciplines to address these issues; from those who have witnessed ‘post-democracy’ first hand in their fieldwork, to those deeply sceptical about the concept, this conference will be a landmark event in opening up a critical study of ‘post-democracies’ in their many scales and forms.
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