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Key Theme: Strains on democratic representation

Section #presentation

Presentation of the Strains on democratic representation Theme

The Strains on Democratic Representation research group looks at the roots, drivers and consequences of contemporary political dynamics, in terms of representation, participation and political competition. How do representative democracies maintain stability? Who engages in politics? What social and political divisions underpin contemporary democracy? How do representative democracies ensure political equality and prevent polarisation? And how is democracy being undermined by the populist wave that has been sweeping Europe since the 1990s? The group explores these and other key questions from both a theoretical and empirical perspective. It takes a multidisciplinary approach regarding methodologies and paradigms.

Section #programme-23-27

Research Programme 2023-2027

Over the coming years, the members of this group will analyse the major challenges facing representative democracies today. These include climate insecurity and action (Joost de Moor, Florence Faucher; doctoral research by Simon Audebert, Maxime Gaborit (FR), Léo Grillet (FR) and Lucien Thabourey); rising inequality and the exclusion of disadvantaged groups (Laura Morales, Tommaso Vitale, Nonna Mayer, Ronja Sczepanski; doctoral research by Théodore Tallent, Paulus Wagner); declining trust in policy and expertise (Isabelle Guinaudeau, Emiliano Grossman, Laura Morales, Takuya Onoda; doctoral research by Charlotte Boucher and Jens Carstens); voter disillusionment and the rise of authoritarian regimes (Elena Cossu, Caterina Froio, Jan Rovny; doctoral research by Emilien Houard-Vial, Malo Jan and Luis Sattelmayer); and the media, political participation, the extreme right and populist regimes (Caterina Froio, Nonna Mayer). These issues reveal the specific problems of democratic regimes, weakening their legitimacy and undermining their stability.

Researchers will take an intersectional approach to the social factors weakening systems, and the way political institutions respond (Florence Haegel, Brenda Van Coppenolle; doctoral research by Lennard Alke and Luis Sattelmayer). They will also study political positioning (Jan Rovny through the CHES study), the frameworks and promises proposed by parties and their leaders in response to these issues (Isabelle Guinaudeau and doctoral research by Selma Sarenkapa with the UNEQUALMAND project; Jan Rovny with the AUTHLIB project). Finally, other research aims to connect experiences in the workplace with political attitudes, particularly voting for radical right wing parties (Bruno Palier and Paulus Wagner).

The work of this group will enable the drivers of change to be analysed, including questions of discrimination and racism (Nonna Mayer, Laura MoralesTommaso Vitale), gender, age or class equality (Laura Morales and Claire Vincent-Mory; doctoral research by Chiao Li), social welfare (Bruno Palier, Takuya Onoda; doctoral research by Paulus Wagner), and the media (Caterina Froio; doctoral research by Selma Sarenkapa).

Issues covered will include:

  • How legitimacy (of elites, experts or institutions) is created, maintained and eroded, and the impact of political preferences and participation in this process (see the ActEU project);
  • The role of social movements in shaping how democratic societies respond to the major challenges of our times (including climate change and its various consequences)
  • The ways in which citizens engage politically, across a range of characteristics such as income and wealth, class affiliation, age and generation, gender ethnicity, race and religion. Researchers will analyse the importance of political groups in this engagement;
  • The influence of working conditions, management styles and work experience on political attitudes, working on the premise that experiences in the workplace can contribute to voting for radical right-wing parties;
  • Finally, the effects of the media and new forms of communication (primarily digital) on political behaviour and participation.

This research will be developed in conjunction with two research groups at the LIEPP, “Discriminations and Category-Based Policies” and “Evaluation of Democracy”, as well as through wider collaborations and partnerships (especially with the Chapel Hill Experts Survey (CHES) whose European branch is led by Jan Rovny). These changes and developments will be considered in the European context, with a particular focus on the EU and European attitudes.

Section #programme-17-22

Research Programme 2017-2022

Three major shifts in representative democracy underpinned our research programme for 2017-2022.

Demographic changes linked to globalisation and technological advancements have shaped political participation. It is therefore particularly important to study social inequality, the inclusion of ethnic, religious and gender minorities (Nonna Mayer, Laura Morales, Jan Rovny, Claire Vincent-Mory), the role of the media in political behaviour, and online forms of political participation (Caterina Froio).

A further change concerns the role of parties and social movements, both traditional (Florence Haegel; doctoral research by Emilien Houard-Vial) and new, in the reorganisation of political divides in a globalised and Europe-facing world. Populist parties and movements from both extremes of the ideological spectrum (Pietro Castelli Gattinara, Caterina Froio), as well as green parties (Florence Faucher, doctoral research of Simon Audebert and Lucien Thabourey), became key actors in various countries by forging new lines of political conflict. Both old and new actors used new digital technologies to their advantage. The consequences of the changes can be seen in election results (Caterina Froio), but also in implications for democratic governance and “democratic regression”. This is especially true in the case in Eastern Europe, where certain elected leaders have redefined institutional structures, weakening the role of the courts and media in order to remain in power (Jan Rovny, Natasha Wunsch).

Third, the responsibility and reactivity of governments are becoming more complex than before due to globalisation and Europeanisation. The emergence of national and supranational centres for decision making and legislative and executive procedures poses a major challenge for nation states, reshaping how domestic policy agendas are built and casting doubt on the capacity of representative institutions to represent voters and deliver responsive policy (Isabelle Guinaudeau, Emiliano Grossman, Laura Morales, doctoral research of Lennard Alke).

Section #projets

Research collaborations and projects

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Section #evenements


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