Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Department of Social Sciences | Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS) | News and Events | News and Events | BGSS Welcome Lecture Opening Academic Year 2014/2015: "Crisis of Democracy. Empty signifier or analytical concept?" A talk by Wolfgang Merkel

BGSS Welcome Lecture Opening Academic Year 2014/2015: "Crisis of Democracy. Empty signifier or analytical concept?" A talk by Wolfgang Merkel

  • When Oct 28, 2014 from 07:00 to 10:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC100)
  • Where Uni 3b, R. 004
  • Add event to calendar iCal

Since its beginning in ancient Greece the term democracy is linked to the term crisis. In modern political science "crisis of democracy" is one of the most common terms. Paradoxically, it is rarely defined and not specified anywhere beyond references to diffuse imagery. In simple terms, we can distinguish at least two uses of the term crisis: acute crisis and latent crisis. If the term crisis is to be freed of indefiniteness for use in comparative empirical research on democracy, it must be honed theoretically. If they are to be precise and analytically productive, concepts such as democratic crisis must fulfill at least the following conditions. It must be:
 

  • able to lay down criteria for distinguishing the beginning and end of crisis,
  • able to diagnose relevant symptoms of crisis
  • able to diagnose crisis progression
  • able to indicate factors that trigger crises of democracy.


This is certainly a challenging checklist. However, it helps us verify the heuristic and analytical suitableness of the crisis concept for empirical research on democracy.

INFORMATION ABOUT WOLFGANG MERKEL
Professor Wolfgang Merkel is Director of the “Democracy and Democratisation” research program at the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB) and Professor of Political Science at the Humboldt University Berlin. He is a member of a number of key bodies, including the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He is also a non-party member of the Basic Values Commission of the Executive Committee of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD).

His most recent publications include The Future of Representative Democracy (2011, together with Sonia Alonso and John Keane); Systemtransformation (2010); Social Democracy in Power. The Capacity to Reform (2008), which has been translated into German, Chinese and Vietnamese; the 2-volume Defekte Demokratie (2002, 2006); and more than 200 journal articles on such subjects as democracy and democratisation, 21st-century dictatorships, political parties, comparative public policy, the future of social democracy, welfare states and social justice.