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  MPIfG Scholar in Residence Lectures


MPIfG Scholar in Residence Lectures 2019 by Armin Schäfer


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In Defense of Democracy

In his series of three lectures, Armin Schäfer wants to assess and explain why there is a crisis of democracy. Following the rise of populist parties, many observers have painted a dark picture of the state of democracy. Not a few of them recommend less democracy as a reaction to these trends. If voters turn towards parties that challenge liberal democracy, so the logic goes, then one has to minimize their influence on political decisions. Against these claims to save democracy from its citizens, he aims to defend democracy and democratic equality. If democracy does not work the way it is supposed to, one should seek ways to improve it rather than blaming those who are disappointed and feel poorly represented. Doing so means asking how substantive and descriptive representation are linked and how many decisions can be delegated to non-majoritarian institutions without hollowing out democracy itself.



Tuesday, November 19, 2019 | 5 p.m.

After the End of History

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously predicted the End of History. Although not all countries were democratic at the time, he maintained that there were no credible rivals to the idea of “liberal democracy” left. Free markets and political freedom were close allies from his point of view. Empirical research about the spread of democracy supported Fukuyama’s bold claims—in several waves, the total and relative number of democracies had been rising across the world, reaching unprecedented levels. However, since the 1990s, a much soberer view has replaced his teleological optimism and there are signs of democratic decay even in some of the most long-standing democracies. This lecture discusses the reasons for the contemporary sense of crisis and looks at empirical evidence for democratic decline across the world.




Tuesday, November 26, 2019 | 5 p.m.

When Representation Fails

The focus of the second lecture is on the concept of representation and on empirical data that measures opinion differences between elites and different groups of citizens. Representation means acting on behalf of the represented in a manner responsive to them (Pitkin). Parliamentarians are neither mere delegates who simply put into action their constituents’ preferences nor trustees who can act totally independently of citizens’ preferences. While they are free in each individual decision that they make, they still have to explain and justify their choices—in particular, if those decisions diverge from citizens’ demands in crucial areas or over an extended period of time. Following the theoretical discussion, Schäfer looks at the gap between decision-makers’ and citizens’ preferences and discusses potential explanations.




Tuesday, December 3, 2019 | 5 p.m.

The Populist Revolt

Many rich democracies have been experiencing a rising tide of populism. Most explanations of populist success focus on economic or cultural reasons. Globalization, as proponents of the former perspective argue, threatens those with lower skill levels because either their jobs can be done elsewhere or cheaper workers (or robots) will be available to do the same task for less (or no) money. Therefore, "globalization losers" turn towards populist parties to protest against (future) welfare losses. In contrast, the cultural explanation argues that value change is the driver of populism. As societies increasingly adopt postmaterial and multicultural values, those who cling to more traditional worldviews feel marginalized and excluded. These "modernization losers" turn to populist parties as they seek to preserve or restore a society that putatively existed in the past. Despite their differences, both of these explanations understand social change as an almost inevitable, automatic process. Yet, governments could react in many different ways to globalization and value change — accelerating either of them is just one option. In contrast to these predominant explanations, this final lecture offers a third view that focuses on "representation losers" to explain the rise of populism. Those who feel poorly represented turn towards populist parties to voice their protest against political exclusion and unresponsive decisions.









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