S1E3: Under­min­ing Democ­ra­cy by Demo­c­ra­t­ic Means: how can we stop it?

As the results of the 2020 US elec­tion are trick­ling in, we are explor­ing how laws – and notably elec­toral laws – can be used to dis­man­tle the con­sti­tu­tion­al sys­tems from with­in. The under­min­ing of democ­ra­cy evokes sharp images of author­i­tar­i­an­ism and a con­tempt for lib­er­tar­i­an­ism. Instead, what we are fac­ing today is a decep­tive onslaught through polit­i­cal and legal machi­na­tions, hol­low­ing out the fun­da­men­tal process­es of free­dom that lie at the heart of democ­ra­cy and insti­tu­tion­al legit­i­ma­cy. In the third episode of Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion?, IWM Rec­tor and host of this pod­cast, Shali­ni Ran­de­ria asks Kim Lane Schep­pele (Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty) how lib­er­al prin­ci­ples and insti­tu­tions are being sub­vert­ed while using elec­toral majori­ties. They explore democracy’s “demo­c­ra­t­ic undo­ing” by elect­ed lead­ers who use demo­c­ra­t­ic man­dates to under­mine and sub­vert the con­sti­tu­tion­al sys­tems of checks and bal­ances that they inher­it­ed. Refer­ring to this phe­nom­e­non, Kim Lane Schep­pele has coined the provoca­tive term of “auto­crat­ic legal­ism” to explain the rise of soft author­i­tar­i­an regimes. Her con­ver­sa­tion with Shali­ni Ran­de­ria focus­es on these devel­op­ments, uncov­er­ing the ori­gins and threats to democ­ra­cy and explor­ing pre­scrip­tions for the resur­gence of democracy 


Shalini Randeria

Shalini Randeria is Rector and President of the Central European University (Vienna/Budapest). Before, she was Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute Geneva, and Rector of the Institute of Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna from 2014 to 2021. She has published widely on the anthropology of globalisation, law, the state and social movements. Her empirical research on India also addresses issues of post-coloniality and multiple modernities.