Fea­tur­ing some of the most impor­tant voic­es from con­tem­po­rary acad­e­mia, the pod­cast series “Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion?” dis­cuss­es var­i­ous demo­c­ra­t­ic expe­ri­ences and exper­i­ments, cur­rent crises as well as long-term chal­lenges to democ­ra­cy such as issues of legit­i­ma­cy, dis­en­fran­chise­ment, or inequality.

“Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion?” host­ed by Shali­ni Ran­de­ria is a joint pro­duc­tion of the Grad­u­ate Institute’s Albert Hirschman Cen­tre on Democ­ra­cy, the Insti­tute for Human Sci­ences (IWM) Vien­na, and the Research Group Soft Author­i­tar­i­anisms, Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men. It is pro­duced in coop­er­a­tion with Richard Miron and Anouk Milet (Earshot strategies).

Sound of Democ­ra­cy” is our new pod­cast project, planned for 2021. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Insti­tute for Human Sci­ences (IWM) Vien­na and artist Mukul Patel , we’re ask­ing how democ­ra­cy sounds today in dif­fer­ent parts of the world, how we talk about democ­ra­cy and which metaphors we use doing so. Sound of Democ­ra­cy is part research project part fusion of artis­tic sound­scapes and schol­ar­ly reflection.

Democracy in Question?

Most of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives in a for­mal democ­ra­cy today. But in both estab­lished and new democ­ra­cies, trust in par­lia­ments and polit­i­cal par­ties is plum­met­ing. World­wide, they are being torn apart by inequal­i­ties, polit­i­cal polar­iza­tion and a pol­i­tics of hate. Cit­i­zens are using the streets and the courts to chal­lenge author­i­ty and to seek the account­abil­i­ty that is often miss­ing at the bal­lot box­es. The form, con­tent, insti­tu­tions, prac­tices and, ulti­mate­ly, the very prin­ci­ples of lib­er­al democ­ra­cy are being called into ques­tion from India to Hun­gary and from Brazil to the US.

Host­ed by Shali­ni Ran­de­ria, Rec­tor of the IWM, Direc­tor of the Cen­tre at the Grad­u­ate Insti­tute, and Excel­lence Chair, Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men (Research Group: Soft Author­i­tar­i­an­ism). It fea­tures some of the most impor­tant voic­es in con­tem­po­rary acad­e­mia. Togeth­er they reflect on demo­c­ra­t­ic expe­ri­ences and exper­i­ments the world over and explore whether this cri­sis of democ­ra­cy rep­re­sents a his­tor­i­cal­ly unique chal­lenge or whether par­al­lels to polit­i­cal crises in the past can be discerned.

While each episode address­es issues con­cern­ing the con­tem­po­rary chal­lenges to democ­ra­cy in dif­fer­ent con­texts, the series is also com­mit­ted to explor­ing themes in the longue durée of democ­ra­cy that have occu­pied social sci­en­tists for decades.

Join Shali­ni Ran­de­ria and lead­ing schol­ars for an explo­ration of the dilem­mas fac­ing democ­ra­cies world­wide. Sub­scribe now, wher­ev­er you get your podcasts!

All Episodes: Democracy in Question

S3E1: The struggle for voting rights in the US today

18. Sep­tem­ber 202132.51 min listen

The most per­ni­cious assault on Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy today are the laws and mea­sures enact­ed in var­i­ous state leg­is­la­tures under Repub­li­can con­trol that aim at vot­er restric­tion. Among the fore­most voic­es in the strug­gle for demo­c­ra­t­ic rights in the Unit­ed States is Stacey Abrams, U.S. politi­cian and activist. Her cam­paign for…

S2E10: Can the concept of “fascism” be used to understand the pathologies of US politics, past and present?

13. Sep­tem­ber 202128:24 min listen

The cur­rent rise of right wing pop­ulist lead­ers in democ­ra­cies around the world, from Don­ald Trump to Jair Bol­sonaro in Brazil, has led to a debate on the fuzzi­ness of these new regimes that are erod­ing lib­er­al­ism by incor­po­rat­ing total­i­tar­i­an fea­tures. Some argue that the term ‘fas­cist’ would be useful…

S2E9: Why are reproductive rights so contentious in the US and Argentina?

13. August 202129:37 min listen

There is con­sid­er­able polit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion and legal con­tention around Repro­duc­tive rights in many democ­ra­cies around the world. In the US, a roll­back of these rights has been under­way over the past decades. The Supreme Court is like­ly to (re)consider its land­mark 1973 Roe v Wade rul­ing that legal­ized abor­tion nationwide.…

S2E8: When and how is power visible in politics?

29. July 202125:08 min listen

Pow­er is a cru­cial, if essen­tial­ly con­test­ed, con­cept. Its nature and exer­cise in demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­tics are not always eas­i­ly grasped. Under­stand­ing who holds pow­er, how it is used, and the rela­tion­ship between those who gov­ern and those who are gov­erned, is crit­i­cal in any polit­i­cal sys­tem. Pro­fes­sor Steven Lukes (for­mer­ly NYU)…

S2E7: How can we structure digital spaces more democratically?

29. July 202125:04 min listen

Dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies have changed and are chang­ing our world. But the eupho­ria about these tech­nolo­gies not only improv­ing con­nec­tiv­i­ty, but cre­at­ing a glob­al pub­lic sphere have giv­en way to cau­tion about their impact. With the increas­ing monop­o­liza­tion of dig­i­tal infra­struc­ture and accu­mu­la­tion of pow­er by a few giant Big Tech…

S2E6: Can democracy survive in Hong Kong?

6. July 202128:26 min listen

The pro-democ­ra­­cy move­ment in Hong Kong is fac­ing its most severe cri­sis today. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has been tight­en­ing its grip over the island slow­ly but sure­ly to sti­fle polit­i­cal protest, impose restric­tions on free­dom of press, and ham­per free and fair elec­tions. Activists have been fight­ing for civ­il lib­er­ties and democratic…

S2E5: What keeps democracies alive?

6. July 202129:49 min listen

Over the series, our focus has often been on the seri­ous chal­lenges that democ­ra­cies face all over the world today. We have also high­light­ed how they can and are degen­er­at­ing and mor­ph­ing into author­i­tar­i­an­ism. But this episode flips the per­spec­tive to under­stand how we can fos­ter and nur­ture demo­c­ra­t­ic spaces…

S2E3:What ails Indian democracy today?

4. June 202144:13 min listen

Most west­ern aca­d­e­mics were skep­ti­cal about the future of India, the world’s largest democ­ra­cy, through­out the 1950s to the 1970s. It suc­ceed­ed beyond all expec­ta­tions in mobi­liz­ing large-scale elec­toral par­tic­i­pa­tion espe­cial­ly among poor and illit­er­ate vot­ers. And yet today its very exis­tence seems to hang in the bal­ance as the…

S2E4: What is the legacy of Egypt’s Arab Spring, 10 years on?

4. June 202127:21 min listen

10 years ago anti-gov­­ern­­ment protests in Tunisia sparked a wave of spon­ta­neous upris­ings against author­i­tar­i­an regimes in the Mid­dle East and North Africa. The Arab Spring was met with repres­sion by gov­ern­ments in the region, but ulti­mate­ly led to the oust­ing of rulers such as Ben Ali in Tunisia, Muammar…

S2E2: Does Liberalism Need Reinvention in the 21st Century?

6. May 202127:21 min listen

The decline and even death of lib­er­al­ism has been pre­dict­ed often. Today it faces chal­lenges not only from pop­ulism in Europe and the US but also from Chi­na offer­ing an illib­er­al alter­na­tive that may prove attrac­tive to lead­ers in the glob­al South. In this episode, Pro­fes­sor Tim­o­thy Gar­ton Ash (Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford)…

S2E1: Covid-19: How Can We Democratize Vaccine Access?

22. April 202129:54 min listen

Covid-19 vac­cines have been devel­oped in record time and are being dis­trib­uted around the world. But issues like vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy, slow pro­duc­tion and unequal access between as well as with­in coun­tries are inhibit­ing the glob­al vac­ci­na­tion progress need­ed to com­bat the pan­dem­ic. In this first episode of sea­son 2, we’re joined…

S1E10: Democracy from Below: What Real Utopias Can We Build on?

2. March 202126:10

Cit­i­zens have a cru­cial role to play in polit­i­cal life and can have tremen­dous pow­er, as they come togeth­er in asso­ci­a­tions and social move­ments. To close this first sea­son, Pro­fes­sor  Mary Kaldor (Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics) lends us her expe­ri­ence as both an aca­d­e­m­ic and an activist in the peace…

S1E9: Can Liberal Democracy Outlive Climate Change?

17. Feb­ru­ary 202128:00 min listen

Pri­or to the Covid 19 pan­dem­ic, the issue on everyone’s minds was cli­mate change. Sci­en­tists have been rais­ing the alarm for the good part of three decades, but politi­cians the world over have been slow to react, even as more cit­i­zens have been call­ing for rad­i­cal action. In this episode,…

S1E8: How do Economic Inequalities Corrode Democratic Processes?

1. Feb­ru­ary 202128:11 min listen

Cap­i­tal­ism has come under attack in recent years, notably because of grow­ing eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ties not only between the glob­al North and South, but also with­in West­ern coun­tries. Some crit­ics even cast doubt on its legit­i­ma­cy and abil­i­ty to cre­ate and pre­serve a just and equi­table soci­ety. In this episode, the…

Sound of Democracy

Programme: Sound of democracy

Entering into Conversation about the Sound of Democracy

1. Feb­ru­ary 2021

The fol­low­ing text describes a project com­ple­ment­ing the Sound of Democ­ra­cy pod­cast, that will be car­ried out by Prof. Dr. Ingo H. Warnke and two of his doc­tor­al stu­dents, name­ly Chris­t­ian Bär and Hagen Stein­hauer. Inter­views on How Democ­ra­cy Sounds What does democ­ra­cy sound like today? How is its sound…

Sound of Democracy. Blog, Podcast and Interview Project

1. Feb­ru­ary 2021

This blog post is a con­tri­bu­tion by a team of lin­guists at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men, name­ly Prof. Dr. Ingo H. Warnke and two of his doc­tor­al stu­dents, Chris­t­ian Bär as well as Hagen Stein­hauer, who is also a mem­ber of the Research Group on Soft Author­i­tar­i­an­ism, which is directed…

Sound of Democracy. Sound as a Metaphor

1. Feb­ru­ary 2021

The fol­low­ing text dia­logues with the pod­cast from the per­spec­tive of lin­guis­tics as a dis­ci­pline and was writ­ten by Prof. Dr. Ingo H. Warnke togeth­er with two of his doc­tor­al stu­dents, name­ly Chris­t­ian Bär and Hagen Stein­hauer. The word sound can refer to a wide range of phe­nom­e­na. With­in the…