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Decision-Making on the Citizens’ Behalf. Is it Still Democratic?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 7 pm

Politics and the administration act on their citizens’ behalf; a representative democracy cannot afford to have any doubts about this. Yet our faith in public representatives’ ability to fulfill this task has been wavering. The impenetrability of global developments and the practical constraints of policies driven by efficiency-oriented thinking are alienating the electorate from democratic institutions. The increased coarsening of political discussion is producing cracks in political structures. Anyone today who claims to act on the citizens’ behalf is entering uncertain territory. As every regional commissioner knows, you have to prove yourself before you can be trusted.

Yona Friedman, Musée des Graffitis, 2006-2009, Paris, France

© Les Nouveaux Commanditaires

As a result, there has been a growing desire in various towns and districts for direct self-representation. People have begun fantasizing about a more direct politics that aims to concretely implement specific interests. This does not just apply to the diverse village communities organizing their own theater festivals. Every populist is trying to reclaim the will of the people for themselves in order to undermine democratic debate. Perhaps this risk is outweighed by the opportunities, namely to renegotiate democratic processes locally and develop a language that helps us become personally involved in political participation once again.

For despite all this uncertainty, nobody would dispute that democracy must regain our trust in order to shape society more actively and spontaneously than before. Decision-making on the citizens’ behalf: would this mean that future citizens will increasingly declare their own agencies, make their needs clear and demand them, and in doing so assume public responsibility instead of (merely) going to vote? Will there be new forms of guidance somewhere between local demands and political representation?

Panel discussion in German with
Dr. Mark Terkessidis (freelance writer and researcher of migration studies)
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Merkel (Director of the Research Unit Democracy and Democratization at the Berlin Social Science Center)
Dr. Juliane Stückrad (Büro für Angewandte Kulturforschung, Eisenach / Department of Cultural Anthropology, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)
Alexander Koch (Director of Gesellschaft der Neuen Auftraggeber, Berlin)
Moderation: Simone Miller (culture editor at Deutschlandfunk Kultur)

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