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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 III DEMOCRATIC CREATIVITY 215 Towards Total Democracy? The Concept of Democracy within the Swedish Social Democratic Party, 1921-1939 Anna FRIBERG The concept of democracy has today become a given, an empty catchphrase that seems to fit almost anything. This has led to debates on whether democracy, or the concept of democracy, is experiencing a crisis, and, if so, how it can be resolved.1 At a cabinet meeting in Sep- tember 1997, Sweden’s social democratic government decided to ap- point a committee to analyse the conditions that Swedish democracy would face in the twenty-first century. The committee’s main report presented the following view of democracy: [W]e should adhere to democracy as a procedure that is superior to all oth- ers. […] The set of regulations is neutral to the politics that is being carried out. […] After having examined the arguments that have been put forward at different times, we have chosen to agree on a definition of democracy that is independent of the content of decisions.2 This definition seems to imply that democracy is a form of political decision-making that can contain any moral principles as long as they have been determined according to a certain procedure. The Swedish historian Victor Lundberg has argued that “The concept of democracy has reached a total and obvious ideological position of power within the political public sphere of Western countries.”3 This seems to indicate that the concept has been reduced to something that does not need to be defined in terms of...

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