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Creative Crises of Democracy

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Joris Gijsenbergh, Wim De Jong, Saskia Hollander and Tim Houwen

The «crisis of democracy» is as old as democracy itself. From the first democracy in Athens up until western democracy in the twenty-first century, criticism and complaints about the deficiencies of democracy have recurred. Pessimistic accounts typically focus on the destructive potential of these crises.
This collection of essays takes an alternative approach and draws attention to the creativity inherent in these «crises of democracy» – the potential for renewal and adaptation.
In the volume, historians, philosophers and political scientists from the Netherlands, Great Britain, Sweden and Austria tackle the three key questions prompted by this perspective: what moments of creativity can be discerned during crises of democracy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; how does democracy adapt during moments of crisis; and how does the notion of a democratic crisis affect political reality and vice versa?

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PART I. CRISIS: AN INHERENT CHARACTERISTIC OF DEMOCRACY?

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PART I CRISIS: AN INHERENT CHARACTERISTIC OF DEMOCRACY? 23 Mix the Balance! Democracy as a Paradoxical Process Evert VAN DER ZWEERDE Il ne faut pas s’étonner que le citoyen libre soit presque toujours un mécontent. Alain [Émile Chartier], 19341 Die Suche nach der einzig richtigen Antwort garantiert noch kein richtiges Ergebnis. Jürgen Habermas, 20012 I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 19913 From time to time, “democracy” is said to be in crisis. “Crisis” means a relatively brief critical episode, leading either to the “death” of what is “in crisis” or to its re-emergence with new vitality and greater resistance. What does it mean for democracy to be “in crisis”? How dangerous is it? Will the patient survive? Is there a cure? Who is the doctor? How high is the fever allowed to rise? How do we distinguish, in the middle of the process, between a creative crisis and a lethal one? Or is “democracy in crisis” like an animal, suffering from illness, re- treating into a secluded place and returning with new vigour? Where is that secluded place? Or is, perhaps, this analogy with a living being leading us astray? Is a liberal-democratic political community not a “living organism”, but something else? Where would we have to posit ourselves in order to answer these questions? Are they not typically posed from the inside looking around, i.e. reflexively? When we speak of “contested democracy”, who is talking, if not “we...

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