This episode explores the political mistakes which prevented human rights and the rule of law from taking root in Afghan society. What understandings of democracy prevailed following the U.S. invasion and what were the foundations on which the leaders of Afghanistan tried to build a modern republic? Listen to what made Taliban resurgence possible, as well as the prospects for a successful popular resistance to their rule of terror.
What are the causes and consequences of democratic decline worldwide over the course of the last two decades? Has democracy in the United States recently drifted more towards democratic backsliding or did the results of the 2022 midterm elections inspire hope in the reversibility of democratic degeneration in the United States? What effect does this trend have on the stability of the international order, on the future of liberal democracy more largely, and not least, on the promotion of democracy abroad? How do we classify different types of democratic backsliding and are there institutional and organizational responses to these? Why have cultural issues become the symbolic battleground today for so many opponents of liberal democracy?
The ongoing protests in the past months have rocked Iran to its core. What began as a wave of street demonstrations and protests has by now turned into a veritable revolution led by courageous and defiant women. What is the broader historical context regarding these current events? How has the oppressive patriarchal regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran paradoxically generated forms of public participation, collective action, and mobilization, which have empowered women? What is the role of the media and of patterns of solidarity emerging in these protests and could these potentially lead to a transformation of the regime, or, in fact, to its end?
How has the success of an extreme authoritarian figure like Bolsonaro been enabled by the political field in Brazil? What is the trajectory of the Brazilian left, represented by PT, ‘The Workers' Party’, led now to victory by President-elect Lula? Lula's return to power marks a fresh start for democracy in Brazil, but it also comes at a time of major geopolitical transformations. What are the possibilities and constraints for Brazil in a global political arena marked by the triple crises of the post-COVID economy, climate change, and heightened military tensions? What is the role of the Brazilian judiciary in the fight against corruption?
In this episode Shalini and her guest discuss why democracy is prone to degeneration, and how this affects our conventional notions of democracy itself. Do we usually depend too much on a thin formal institutional conception of democracy focused on electoral routines, and thus, neglect broader questions of class, culture, equality, and solidarity? How can we reimagine and also regenerate progressive democracy with the right balance of freedom, equality, and solidarity on the local, national, as well as supranational levels? And how can we overcome the pervasive sense of powerlessness in the face of abstract impersonal forces, forces that Charles Taylor refers to not only as opaque, but also as those signaling the loss of citizen efficacy?
In this episode Shalini and her guest discuss how U.S. American democracy is exhibiting symptoms of decline or even of degeneration given the continuing denial of the results of the last presidential election by many in the Republican Party and partisan efforts to curtail voting rights in the United States. How alarmed should one be about legislative capture and voter suppression by an increasingly combative Republican Party, which could significantly alter the very nature of American democracy? Do we need to re-evaluate our deep-seated faith in the irreversibility of democratic achievements in the face of soft authoritarian rulers all over the world becoming ever more popular? Is it time to reconsider issues of socioeconomic inequality and of class to revive a strong sense of collective purpose and solidarity that may indeed be indispensable for a defense of democracy?
Since populism became widespread in parts of Latin America, was it mistakenly seen as foreign to Euro-American liberal democracy, and has it in recent decades become more widespread than parliamentary democracy or liberal constitutionalism? Is the potential for populism inherent in democracy itself, especially when conceived in terms of a dialectic between the majority and the minority? Is it always accompanied by a suspicion against the elites? Should progressive political forces resort to populist tactics and rhetoric in order to win back the masses from the far-right demagogues? Or does this inevitably pose a risk to democratic ideals of pluralism and universalism? Could this then pave the way to an exclusionary, antagonistic, imaginary system, which would play into the hands of ethno-nationalist forces? Is populism still compatible with democracy by continually testing its limits? And what distinguishes populist politics from post-fascist rule?
How and why did the idea of calling for the establishment of a special tribunal to investigate the crimes of aggression against Ukraine come up in the first place? Why was it necessary to call for the establishment of a new International Criminal Court when there is one already in The Hague? Why can the International Criminal Court not investigate Russia for crimes of aggression? Under what conditions could any newly established special court successfully prosecute anyone from the highest echelons of the current Russian regime? What is the broader symbolic significance of taking such initiatives today, initiatives which may not immediately be implemented, but at least bring about a larger public discussion about the role of international law in armed conflict?
The causes of the current societal, economic, and political crisis in Sri Lanka are complex. The immediate roots of the crisis are the local and global economic factors fueled by the popular protests against the corruption of the governing political elites. What does the ongoing crisis have to do with catastrophic or distant events like the COVID-19 pandemic or Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine? What role does foreign debt, especially indebtedness to China, play in the crisis? How does the fragile architecture of Sri Lanka's political economy and its dependence on remittances survive when funds are being siphoned off into foreign investments by the national elites? What are the prospects of civil society-led democratic reforms in the face of Sri Lanka's militarized political structures?