Strains on democratic representation

The axis Strains on Democratic Representation explores the drivers and consequences of current political developments in the politics of representation, and their historical roots. How do representative democracies maintain stability? Who participates in politics? What societal and political divides underlie contemporary democracy? How do representative democracies deliver political equality, accountability and prevent polarization? And how is democracy undermined? We address these and other fundamental questions both theoretically and empirically. The axis is pluralistic in terms of methodological and paradigmatic approaches and it brings together early-stage and more senior researchers under the coordination of Caterina Froio and Jan Rovny. Three main developments inspire our research agenda.

1. Social change and political participation

Demographic changes, the advancement of globalisation and technological progress are transforming political participation. These developments render the study of social inequalities, of the inclusion of ethnic, religious and gender minority groups and of internet-mediated forms of political participation more important today than before. These social transformations are at the core of various national and international research projects 

The same agenda inspires various PhD dissertations:

2. New and old political parties, social movements and political divides

The second has to do with the role of traditional and new challenger parties and social movements in restructuring political cleavages in a Europeanised and globalised world. Populist parties and movements at both ends of the ideological spectrum and Green parties became key players in various countries articulating new lines of political conflict. Both old and new actors have benefited from the diffusion of digital technologies. While the consequences are visible in elections, they have also implications for democratic governance and ‘democratic backsliding’, particularly in Eastern Europe where elected leaders redesign institutional checks and balances, weaken the role of courts and the media to insulate their power. 

The following research projects examine these core transformations:

PhD dissertations:

3. The functioning of representative democracy

Third, as a result of globalisation and Europeanisation, governments accountability and responsiveness are becoming more complex than before. The emergence of national and supranational centers of political decision-making and procedures represent major challenges to nation states, reshaping the formation of domestic policy agendas and calling into question representative institutions’ ability to represent voters and to deliver responsive policies. 

These themes animate the following research projects

PhD dissertations:

Seminars