Are We Losing Faith in Democracy?

We talk to Roberto Foa about some of the findings in his groundbreaking new report 'Global Satisfaction with Democracy'. Where are people most dissatisfied with democracy and why? Is it being driven by economic factors or is something else going on? And why does democratic satisfaction divide Europe north/south and east/west? Plus we talk about what might happen to satisfaction with democracy in the UK post-Brexit. With Helen Thompson.


Talking Points: 


Dissatisfaction with democracy is up by about ten percentage points worldwide.

  • Northern Europe is more satisfied with democracy than Southern Europe.
  • Perhaps more surprising, Eastern Europe is more satisfied with democracy than Western Europe.


There has been a meltdown of satisfaction in Southern Europe since the start of the Eurozone crisis. But in Germany, satisfaction levels went up after the crisis.

  • The internal story is more complicated: the German system was responsive to the interests of German banks, but not German savers. Backlash led to the rise of the AfD.
  • The Eurozone constrains the ability of some governments to be responsive to popular demands.


Satisfaction with democracy is not the same as belief in liberal democratic principles.

  • People living under populist leaders, for example, in Hungary, report rising satisfaction.
  • The majority is happy but minorities are being oppressed. 
  • Satisfaction also rose after the pink tide in Latin America, when popular lefist governments came to power.


Is satisfaction a good proxy for democratic health?

  • It can tell us something about the legitimacy of the political system: sustained dissatisfaction appears to be a harbinger of democratic failure.


The new report focuses on trends from the mid-1990s to the present day. But what if the 90s are the real outlier? Is this ‘decline’ actually a return to the norm?

  • The biggest concern in the 90s was that too much democracy leads to inflation. 
  • But the technocratic systems that emerged in this era are less responsive and create inequality.


Mentioned in this Episode: 


Further Learning:


And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking


 

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