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Creative Crises of Democracy


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 II PERFORMATIVITY AND PERCEPTION: THE POLITICAL USAGE OF CRISIS DISCOURSES 111 Political Education and the Recurring Crisis of Democracy in the Netherlands (1945-2010) Wim DE JONG Nearly everywhere that there is citizenship educa- tion in schools […] some historically contingent sense of crisis has been the trigger, not a reflection that knowledge of the social and political institu- tions of a country should be a normal entitlement of children growing towards an all too adult world. Bernard Crick, 19991 Bernard Crick, one of the greatest influences on the shaping of polit- ical education in Great Britain, argued in the report quoted above that since it is undeniable that there is politics, and that it has influence over people’s lives, education in it is logical and useful.2 For our purposes, however, we start from his claim that a feeling of crisis is nearly always at the bottom of initiatives to improve political education. The question of democratic citizenship began to attract more public attention in the period after the fall of the Berlin Wall, amid hosannas and cheers for the victory of democracy, but that attention was largely caused by a feeling of discomfort at social developments. The 1980s had seen the rise of a more individualistic culture and a decline in participation in political parties. Among politicians, intellectuals, and political scientists, that fostered a fear of fragmentation in society, and a critique of the mentality fostered by the expanded welfare state. If the West had developed an indifferent, atomized consumer...

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