The world is stranded in a no-man's land between the post-cold war order imagined by the west and an as yet undefined post-western world in which big and middle-ranking powers from the global south claim a much bigger say. Russia's war against Ukraine has given rise to a surprising resilience and cohesion among advanced democracies in the face of Putin's threat. But the conflict has also highlighted the equivocal position of the global south where many states have refused to "side" with the west. Against this backdrop, the quasi-permanent crisis experienced by the EU during the last decade and a half has raised questions about its further sustenance which to a great extent relates to the nature and status of democratic resilience. Resilience is generally understood as the ability to maintain, or bounce back to, a stable equilibrium or status quo. But in a situation of external and internal challenges brought about by deep structural change, the question of what might constitute a stable equilibrium is part of the challenge.
One hypothesis is that such an equilibrium is key to the ongoing credibility of the EU in the world as is its contribution to what we refer to here as transformative transnational governance. But it is also possible to argue that the key to sustainable transformation lies with more radical democratic innovations and renovations which put in question entrenched structures of power. And on this count, the EU has much to learn from many places in the rest of the world.
What then is the relationship between a critical gaze on democratic developments in the EU’s internal and external developments and the ways in which we may conceive of transformative transnational governance? Can the current crisis of democracy be a catalyst for progress? How do we achieve truly sustainable, long-term policy interventions towards new legal imaginaries, where democracy is the means to guarantee and empower ecosystems of social distributive justice? What role for institutions (the institutional infrastructure of democracy) versus societal actors? Is a transnational public sphere necessary for addressing these existential concerns and does organised civil society provide the most suitable platform for empowering these voices transnationally? And again, how could these ecosystems reconfigure the terms and conditions of the citizens’ political life to generate appropriate political responses? How does transnational governance benefit from the collective intelligence beyond the diplomatic and technocratic worlds? What transformative power do democratic innovations hold?