After the Cold War ended, liberal democracy was often taken for granted. Now it is in crisis: many citizens distrust representative government and parliamentary politics, the people's parties all over Europe are losing members and votes, twitter and Instagram are crowding out public debates and civility. Across the globe, studies have appeared on the crisis of democracy. Challenging the sense of despair that has informed recent conversations, Till van Rahden’s new book suggests that instead of analysing how democracies die, it might prove more useful to explore what keeps them alive. Drawing on the history of the Federal Republic of Germany as a case study to think about democracy as a way of life, it argues that Postwar Germany’s democratic miracle allows us to better understand the cultural and social foundations of democracy in public controversies, in democratic aesthetics, and in everyday life. It contends that no matter how stable a democratic government might appear to be, without democratic forms and spaces that allow for democratic experiences in everyday life it will wither away.
To what extent is democracy a “fragile way of life”? Does a focus on questions of style and form, as well as of democratic spaces, allow us to productively rethink the foundations of democracy? These questions will be debated by Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Till van Rahden and Shalini Randeria.
Till van Rahden is Associate Professor at the Université de Montréal, Canada Research Chair in German and European Studies. At the Centre canadien d’études allemandes et européennes he leads the project “Diversité et civilité : la démocratie et la politique d’appartenance depuis les Lumières”. He has been Senior Research Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt/Main, the Leibniz Institute for European History, Mainz, and The Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna. His new book, Demokratie, Eine gefährdete Lebensform, was published in 2019 by Campus Verlag.