by SWPS University
The history of democratic institutions runs parallel to theoretical and conceptual debates on its ‘content’, as well as its constant ‘crisis’. Democracy, as an open-ended, idealistic project, can never be fully realized, thus the ‘crisis’ is its inherent feature. The constant debate, criticism, doubt, and hope are what keep it alive, ever-transforming and adapting, for better or worse. Today democratic states coexist or clash with authoritarian or totalitarian regimes, but also deal with their own structural and economic injustices and functional problems. Governments on all levels – from local to international – make difficult and not always transparent or ethical decisions on a daily basis. On the other hand, citizens’ engagement in the democratic process takes different forms, but mostly through elections or the public consultation process. While more participative and deliberative forms of governance are being introduced throughout democratic countries, their use is still rather small in scale and instances, and practical implementations reveal flaws and difficulties that are not accounted for in the theoretical and political expectations.
The uniqueness of the EUARENAS project lies in its position at the intersection of theory and practice, which enables it to bring together people of different approaches and interests in deliberative and participatory democracy. Invoking relevant literature can therefore have a double impact on the project. First of all, by bringing forth a better understanding of the nuances of the debate, we might be able to understand better our own attitudes to the practice of democracy. Secondly, since very few debates are able to combine both philosophical and theoretical reflections with unique, dedicated empirical and practical experiences, we hope to identify theoretical gaps and inconsistencies by highlighting crucial debates and their blank spots and design our research to the effect of bringing evidence shedding light on these issues. Therefore, we treat this state of debate both as a way for theory to have a meaningful impact on practice and vice versa.
You can download the deliverable here: D1.2 State of Democracy Debate