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The Future of Democracy

Even the countries with long democratic traditions have been increasingly confronted with challenges, such as: low voter turnouts, anti-parliamentary and extremist movements or international terrorism.

The scale of many problems in society has also expanded (‘internationalisation’, ‘globalisation’), issues are becoming ever more complex, sudden changes require rapid responses rather than lengthy deliberation, market forces govern societal decision-making, the world has become more legalised, et cetera. As a consequence, decision-making has been delegated to experts (‘managerialism’) who do not define only the ends but also the means.

Because of all this, citizens are alienated from societal decision-making. There is today a widespread feeling that official democratic channels are irresponsive to people’s interests and desires. Young people especially are looking for new forms of association and use other than traditional ways to make their voices heard.

The advent of what has been called the ‘information society’ and ever more sophisticated ways of electronic communication pose challenges of an entirely new kind. From the point of view of democracy, a crucial question is in what way these developments may affect societal decision-making. Besides technical questions, the internet, for instance, also raises questions of a political nature: Who is to decide about the net, by way of which procedures, and what consequences will this have for the quality of political regimes throughout the world?

In general, the one over-arching question is: What is to come, in other words, what will or what can the future of democracy be in those countries with long-standing democratic traditions, in the so-called ‘transition countries’, which are already moving somewhere along the road to democracy, and in the countries which still seem to be far from democracy?