VIDEO | The Kidnapping of Democracy

 

This is part of the Festival of Democracy 2017

Many democracies are today gripped by institutional convulsions and bitter theoretical disputes. Political thinkers and citizens have noted how significant positive transformations are happening, for instance in the renewal of civil society, the growth of new forms of self-organised citizen participation and public exposures of corrupt power.

But there are dark sides of the present, threatening trends that are undermining the role of citizens and their representatives in political decision making. In various languages and many different contexts, more than a few journalists, activists, critics and even some politicians now speak of the ‘kidnapping’ of democracy. They point to the many ways in which decisions about who gets what, when and how are being monopolised – kidnapped by ‘elites’ who are restricting, even destroying, the capacity of citizens and their representatives to act politically. Public reflection on the whole idea of the kidnapping of democracy remains limited, among both scholars and citizens alike. That is why this seminar sets out to reflect on the meaning of kidnapping, and why the concept is helpful in understanding contemporary political trends. It examines where and why the term surfaced, whether a typology of different forms of kidnapping is needed, and how the notion of the kidnapping of democracy can help us imagine and formulate new ways of preventing dangerous concentrations of power.

Speaker: Ramón Feenstra is a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Sociology at the Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, Castellón de la Plana, Spain. His research is centred on civil society, monitory democracy, new communication tools and the ethics of communication. He is the author of Democracia monitorizada en la era de la nueva galaxia mediática (Icaria, 2012) and Ética de la publicidad. Retos en la era digital (Dykinson, 2014).

Chair: James Weinberg is a Research Associate at the Sir Bernard Crick Centre at the University of Sheffield working on the ‘personal side of politics’. His ESRC-funded PhD focuses on the value orientations of national politicians in the UK; the research hopes to illuminate the psychological imperatives associated with the job of representation and the personal dynamics of MPs’ roles, behaviours and legislative decisions. Alongside his PhD James is currently leading on a new strand of research investigating the ways citizenship education can be reformed, both process and content, to tackle political apathy and reinvigorate democracy.

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