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Democracy Futures examines the challenges facing democracies today and tomorrow, with articles on The Conversation and lunchtime talks on campus.


The Democracy Futures project on The Conversation is a joint global initiative with the Sydney Democracy Network. The material published in this series aims to stimulate fresh thinking about the many challenges facing democracies in the 21st century. Rachell Li (SDN) coordinates the project with John Watson (Politics and Society Editor at The Conversation).



Biosphere and Energy targets two main themes: the role democratic governance can play in safeguarding the Earth’s future; the ways in which energy policies and technologies have shaped the past, present and future of democracy. The contributions will assess existing energy regime models—their languages, practices, effects and limitations—and the prospects of moving towards new energy regimes which have a closer affinity with the ideals and institutions of democracy.

China focuses on the controversial relationship between China and the future of democracy. This page will examine such themes as the Communist Party’s anti-corruption drive and unusual ongoing experiments with proto-democratic initiatives; the validity of the Atlantic model of democracy when applied to China; the role of democratic outliers such as Hong Kong and Taiwan; and debates in contemporary China about the future of democracy.

Crossroads Europe examines the political and social disintegration of Europe; the increasingly difficult relationship with Russia; the wider regional and global role of the European Union; the resurgence of populism; and the uncertain future of parliamentary democracy in Europe.

Elections & Campaigns examines the history, present and future of elections and campaigns as integral part of the democratic process. Topics include electoral integrity, signs of declining efficacy and ‘sidelining’ of elections/parties/parliaments by the rising influence of money; the future of campaigning in an increasingly mediated society.

Human and Non-Human focuses on the troubled relationship between democracy, the human and the non-human. Possible topics include patterns of proto-democratic behaviour in animals; the extent to which the whole idea and practice of democracy is complicit in the human/non-human divide; species destruction; and the possibility of a democratic society which transcends the limits of anthropocentrism.

Indigenous Politics there are approximately 370 million indigenous people spanning 70 countries worldwide. This cluster examines issues of social integration and legal recognition of indigenous people in different regions. Topics will include the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination in the post-human rights declaration era; ongoing debate on indigenous self-government and the constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples; an examination of the Taiwanese model of integration; the case of the Maya villages of Belize; the issue of discrimination against indigenous women in Latin America.

Networked Politics targets the growing impact of digital networks and communication media on the increasingly media-saturated field of political life, broadly conceived. Topics include the role surveillance technologies and quantum communication networks play in modern democracies; the use of new communication media in public contestations of power; and the future of the World Wide Web.

New despotisms examines the developing alternatives to democracy in contexts otherwise as different as Egypt, Vietnam, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and the Central Asian republics. The mechanics of power within these regimes, and the way they mimic and mock Western democracies, for instance by staging elections and cultivating populist styles of leadership, will be of special interest.

Political Leadership focuses on rising tides of cynicism and mistrust and the prospects for the renewal of representative politics in contemporary democracies.