Re-Thinking Liberal Democracy

March 7, 2024 - March 8, 2024
Poltical Theory , Universität Potsdam

August-Bebel-Straße 89
Potsdam 14482

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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Universität Potsdam

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Democracy today is considered both essential to politics as well as deeply vulnerable and under threat from both novel as well as familiar challenges. From populist movements and the growing influence of authoritarian leaders to the unknown impact of the digital revolution on information exchange, public trust, and decision making, the future political landscape remains deeply uncertain. 

Distancing themselves from Fukuyama, many scholars are quick to acknowledge that democracy should not be taken as ‘the end of history’ but is in fact a highly contingent form of regime. Nevertheless, regardless of where the most pressing challenges to democracy are located, most philosophical discourse and public debate still take democracy, and all its contingencies, as the starting point of modern politics. In this sense, democracy may not be the end of history, but it should be. As liberal democracies struggle to satisfy expectations, its failings are assumed to be the result of an insufficient accounting and ordering of democracy’s challenges and weaknesses. Scholarship as a result tends to focus on re-articulating democracy in a way that accounts for and explains these challenges. Rarely is the critical, theoretical gaze turned inward towards those assumptions regarding the concept of democracy itself. Meanwhile, within public debate, polarization and political gridlock becomes increasingly entrenched as each side of the political spectrum sees the other as potentially tyrannical and declared a threat to democracy. 

This presents a challenge for the political imagination as it assumes that our only options are liberal democracy or an untenable, authoritarian alternative. Therefore, in the spirit of J.S. Mill’s caution that we do not ‘leave off thinking’ regarding those concepts of which we take as fundamental to politics, this workshop invites political theorists to return their thinking to the concept of democracy and its foundational assumptions. While there is no shortage of literature outlining the advantages and challenges of a democratic system, this workshop will focus on the possible dichotomies, contradictions, and paradoxes in our current thinking with regards to democracy and our political possibilities. We invite the submission of abstracts that consider critically one of the following questions: 

  • Where has liberal political theory left off its thinking with regards to    democracy?
  • What are the discrepancies in our current justifications of democracy? 
  • To what degree does liberal political theory fail to deal with the contingencies of democracy and other political concepts? 
  • What would it look like to think beyond the paradigm of liberal democracy? / What is the possibility of a politics outside the paradigm of liberal democracy? 
  • What are the possibilities and limitations of hybrid conceptions of democracy? 

Keynote Speaker: Veith Selk, Technische Universität Darmstadt

Please send abstracts of not more than 500 words to Glorianne Wilkins, [email protected], by January 12, 2024

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February 29, 2024, 12:00pm CET

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