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Interdisciplinary Research cluster

Democracy in the 21st Century

Democracy and public identification with its values and practices face profound challenges today. We assess historical and current understandings of democracy to provide the insights for re-building the legitimacy and credibility of democratic institutions and the social contract that sustains them.

Today the meaning of democracy – always a contested concept – and the broad public identification with its values and practices are being challenged in profound ways.

New economic disparities, pressures to circumscribe certain rights, and unprecedented tension between democratic representation and technocratic governance, where elites pursue economic and functional imperatives, are weakening democracy’s societal roots.

At the same time, various forms of illiberal democracy or authoritarianism induce many to think that they can perform better than classic liberal democracies.

With new technologies reshaping the dynamics of political persuasion to emphasise individual empowerment and mobilisation, political life is becoming privatised.

In response to these challenges, we propose an interdisciplinary inquiry on the making and conditions of democracy.

We believe that only a multi-disciplinary assessment, one which considers how democracy was understood in the past and developed over time, can provide the insights that society needs to re-build the legitimacy of democratic representation, the credibility of political institutions, and the social contract that underpins its sustainability.

Events Archive (September 2020 - March 2021)



The STG Initiative on Transnational Democracy serves as the European University Institute's hub for teaching and research on issues of democracy beyond the state. It operates under the umbrella of the the "Democracy in the 21st century" Interdisciplinary research cluster, and in close cooperation with the European Governance and Politics Programme at the Robert Schuman Centre and the European and Transnational Governance Network, EUI.

The team

Group members

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