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?
A new world order is in place where according to Kaldor, perpetual violence has become the norm. How come these so-called new wars, or “forever wars” as Kaldor refers to them, are not tied to contest over national territory? Furthermore, does NATO still adhere to Cold War patterns of thinking and is there a willingness in the organization to change the focus towards matters relating to human security? Is Putin's war of aggression in Ukraine not a throwback to the old wars fought for control over territory against neighboring states? And where can we locate the sights and actors of successful resistance, and should these be civilian rather than military? Can the military even be part of the solution, or is the inherent logic of the military industrial complex part of the problem in the first place? Given the current geopolitical tensions can democratic status quo be preserved by relying on a self-limiting and limited capacity for defensive deterrence mixed with policing functions?
What are the main threats to diverse societies and why is the timely recognition of these threats more important in liberal democracies? Can we or should we overcome the framework of methodological nationalism when we talk about the future of diverse democracies? Is the nation-state still the optimal scale for political action? How can diverse societies coexist with democratic institutions and governance structures on both the subnational and the supernational scales? How can the metaphor of the public park apply to diverse democracies of today?
This episode presents a description of the current situation in Putin's totalitarian Russia and analyzes whether there is hope for change coming from within the country itself. It is a vivid picture of how authoritarian regimes shape what citizens see, believe, and think and how this leads to a profound sense of hopelessness, isolation, a state of general anxiety and despair. Is the resurgence of Putin’s new imperial ambitions likely to bolster his power nationally and internationally? Can sanctions or economic sanctions in general give a hope in resolving the conflict?