Most contemporary commentators posit a tension between multilateralism and democracy. Global and regional cooperation are often pragmatically beneficial but nonetheless degrade domestic democracy. The resulting erosion of democratic legitimacy is often blamed for contemporary public malaise and lack of trust in politics and politicians. Yet this widespread critique of multilateralism rests on three basic fallacies: […]
Can representative democracies be strengthened to govern more effectively? The SSRC’s Anxieties of Democracy program is motivated by a concern about whether the core institutions of established democracies can capably address large problems in the public interest. The Inaugural Democracy Papers were produced as part of the planning process for the Anxieties of Democracy program at the Social Science Research Council. The authors are leading scholars of democracy, both in the United States and abroad. Several of the authors are now members of Anxieties of Democracy working groups and advisory committee.
If you enjoy these essays, you may also like the more recent Democracy Papers collection published on Items. The Democracy Papers collection features essays that summarize and highlight research presented at workshops and conferences affiliated with the Anxieties of Democracy program.
First observation. Anxieties of democracy: Generalizing from the global North? Anxieties of democracy. This phrase is reminiscent of the kinds of conversations that Latin Americanists had in the 1980s: would the turn to democracy survive the economic crisis? Would citizens overcome the disenchantment with democracy that was certain to spiral as democratic governments faced limited autonomy […]
The 2012 election provided more evidence that a liberal Democratic coalition is gaining strength and may have supplanted the conservative alliance that essentially dominated American elections and policy from 1968 to 2006. In addition, the elections of 2008 and 2012 demonstrated that new technology and get-out-the-vote strategies can boost participation by lukewarm and occasional voters. […]
Racial cleavages in public opinion remain massive, particularly between black and white citizens. Gaps of 20 to 60 percent between mean black and white opinion are consistently found on issues such as support for military intervention in the Middle East, economic redistribution, prospects for blacks achieving racial equality in the United States, whether felons who have served […]
The Substance of Policy Areas and Representation: Some Observations about Social Policy and Tax Policyby Andrea Louise Campbell
In this short essay, I explore issues of democratic governance in several areas of American social policy and tax policy. How these two broad areas play out in coming decades is central to the fiscal future of the United States. Yet despite much hand-wringing and recommendations from expert commission after expert commission, policymaking is essentially […]
From the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street to clashes over campaign finance and voter identification laws, concerns about who has too much or too little influence are at the centre of many of the most salient developments and debates in contemporary American politics. Indeed, questions about whether and in what ways inequalities in influence […]
At least since Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, it has been routine to see democracy and equality as joined—if somewhat problematically—at the hip. Tocqueville saw democratic politics as the outgrowth of a relentless drive toward equality that he believed had been unfolding for centuries. He also thought that democracy reinforces the egalitarian mores that he […]
War and democracy Humans have inflicted untold horrors on each other through wars of aggression and preemptive defense. It is therefore ironic to consider that wars and the threat of war have been responsible for some of the biggest franchise expansions in human history. Governments need manpower and money to fight, and, depending on the […]
Why a Philosophy of History in which the Present Moment Is World-Altering Is Not Hubris and Is Politically Necessaryby Nancy Rosenblum
The habitat of most contributors to the SSRC’s Anxieties of Democracy initiative is the political maelstrom. They have studied and assessed it all—from the 1998 attempt to impeach a popular president to debt-ceiling crises and sequestration, to the overarching question of whether Americans want national government to take an active role in addressing problems. Explaining […]
From its ancient provenance, democracy has always provoked anxieties of excess, lawlessness, and spontaneity, and thus also the anxiety of having within itself the disruptive energy to unsettle any stable regime of power (Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Polybius). One characteristic ancient (and modern) way of contending with these anxieties was by conjoining the idea of democracy […]