Democracy is a shape-shifting idea and practice, constantly contested and re-invented across the globe. We talk about the democratic malaise and regression, we witness democratic backsliding, democratic interference and the widespread undermining of institutional pluralism - alongside egregious repression against the democratic aspirations of populations from Iran to Hong Khong, Sudan to Venezuela. Yet, in spite of the global decline of democracy, we find hopeful signs of resilience in many countries. Moreover, new types of democratic practices and innovations are emerging everywhere, fueled inter-alia by the power of the internet, the drive to address issues like climate change and human rights across border, and at the same time, the embrace by many among the young of interconnected local and municipal democracy.
What do these contrasting trends mean for the fate of democracy beyond the state? How do regime types located in different points on the democracy spectrum co-exist in supranational collaborative schemes and international regime? How accountable and accessible should these transnational processes and organizations be? If the EU has long been criticized for its so called democratic deficit, it is also a fascinating laboratory for addressing these challenges, especially if it can do so in conversation with what is happening elsewhere.
In this context, the EUI has supported a cluster on “Democracy in the 21st century” for two years, between 2020 and 2022. In continuity with this project, the Interdisciplinary Research Cluster “Transnational Democracy in the 21st century” (TD21) focuses more specifically on democratic challenges related to patterns of interaction between states or other actors involved in the transnational space, and on the role of supranational institutions like the EU with regards to democracy. The transnational angle does not eschew the original focus on democracy at the local or national levels, since these are the building blocks for cross-border practices.
Here are some of the questions addressed by researchers in the cluster:
- What are the best available methodologies for conducting action-oriented research?
- How can we best explain citizens’ interests, affects or behavior relevant to the 21st century democratic agenda?
- How can we conceptualise the cross-border nature of the democratic challenge, regarding in particular how they affect political legitimacy?
- Under what conditions do democracies not only survive but can be redesigned to be able to absorb both endogenous and exogenous disruption(s)? To what extent and how can democratic innovations hold significant transformative power to re-anchor our social contracts vertically at different levels of governance and horizontally across countries?
- How do wo achieve sustainable, long-term policy interventions towards new legal imaginaries, where democracy is the means to guarantee and empower ecosystems of distributive justice?
- How does the development of a transnational public sphere affect these existential concerns and how does organized civil society provide pathways for empowering citizens voices transnationally?
- How could democratic ecosystems reconfigure the terms and conditions of citizens’ political life, to tap in their collective imagination and collective intelligence to generate appropriate political responses? How do these dynamics interact with expert knowledge, bureaucratic logics, policy making processes and state structures?
- How should we design democratic innovations across borders including in the form of transnational citizens assembly selected by lot?
- How can cross-border participation and representation of minorities and vulnerable groups be enhanced in Europe and beyond, both through classic representative democracy and more innovative participatory schemes?
Event Series organised by the TD21 Cluster
Cluster Research Seminar
The Seminars lie at the core of the activities conducted by the Cluster and are the hotbed of epistemic proliferation, where new papers and books are discussed, external speakers join the EUI for lively discussions and interdisciplinarity is the prerequisite for transcending traditional knowledge silos.
EUI-STG Democracy Forum
The Forum generates wide-ranging debates that cover the state-of-the-art democratic innovations globally (including weighting in on the post-CoFoE assessment and the role of the ECI), the catalytic role of transnational civil society and the prescriptive question of a permanent EU’s citizens’ assembly. The Forum represents a truly valuable opportunity for the EUI community to engage with the empirical reality of our societies, gathering feedbacks from a heterogenous group of academics, civil society representatives, practitioners and policy-makers.
A Civil Society Lab
An established network with European civil society, called “Power to the People”, provides scholars with a unique opportunity to observe – and possibly contribute to the design of – transnational experiments of citizens’ participation organised by civil society, aimed at reimagining a public sphere that is fit to endure future democratic challenges.
Events from September 2020 to March 2021
Events from April 2021 to date
Find out more about the STG Transnational Democracy Programme.
For a deep-dive on some of the research themes, consult directly the EUI Transnational Democracy Blog.
Associated EUI programmes and Projects (please write to us if you would like to add a link):
- The School of Transnational Governance (STG), with its EU-funded programme on European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO)
- The STG Transnational Democracy Programme, including its EUI-STG Democracy Forum, the EUI Transnational Democracy Observatory, the Research Project on Artificial Intelligence and Democracy, the Young EUI Democracy Forum and the new pilot Transnational Democratic Odyssey Project
- The work of the four EUI Departments on democratic integration, re-building legitimacy of democratic institutions, citizens’ assemblies. democratic innovations and renovation of social contract(s). This includes in particular the SPS research streams covering democratic developments and citizen political behaviour in Central and Eastern Europe
- The relevant programmes and project of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS), including the European Governance and Politics Programme (EGPP) and its Conversations on the Future of Europe, the Europolitan Project, the European Populism and Public Policy project and the BRRIDGE Horizon project, which twins the EUI with the Matej Bel University, the Central European University and the National University of Ireland Galway.
- The work of the EUI on the Conference on the Future of Europe, especially ahead of and following the third meeting of the European Citizen Panel “Democracy, Values, Human Rights, Rule of Law, and Security”, held at the EUI in December 2021. This includes the wider outreach campaign led by the RSCAS, the current follow-up research and the EUI’s on-going engagement through the SOU with EU institutions involved in democratic reform
- Other Interdisciplinary Research Clusters, particularly the ones working on “Decentering Eurocentrism” and “Technological Change and Society”
- The EUI contribution to CIVICA’s work on Democracy in the 21st century
TD21 cluster Library Information Specialist: Thomas Bourke