Book Event: The Will of the People: A Modern Myth
- Date: –18:00
- Location: Engelska parken 22-1027, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala
- Lecturer: Albert Weale, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy, University College London
- Organiser: Uppsala Forum for Democracy, Peace and Justice
- Contact person: Mattias Vesterlund
- Phone: 0184715353
Welcome to this Book Event with Albert Weale from University College London. The event is free of charge and open to the public.
Democracies today are in the grip of a myth – the myth of the will of the people. Populist movements use the idea to challenge elected representatives. Politicians, content to invoke the will of the people, fail in their duty to make responsible and accountable decisions. And public contest over political choices is stifled for fear that opposing the will of the people will be perceived as elitist.
In this book Albert Weale dissects the idea of the will of the people, showing that it relies on a mythical view of participatory democracy. The definition of ‘the people’ is vague and shifting. As soon as a choice between more than two simple alternatives is involved, there is often no clear answer to the question of what a majority favours. Worst of all, because governments have to interpret the results of referendums, the will of the people becomes a means for strengthening executive control – the exact opposite of what appealing to the people’s will seemed to imply.
Weale argues that it’s time to dispense with the myth of the will of the people. A flourishing democracy requires an open society in which choices can be challenged, parliaments strengthened and populist leaders called to account.
Albert Weale is Emeritus Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy and currently holds an ESRC Professorial Fellowship in 'Social Contract, Deliberative Democracy and Public Policy'. He joined the Department in January 2010. Educated at the University of Cambridge (1968-74), he started his career as Sir James Knott Fellow in the Department of Politics, University of Newcastle (1974-76) before going on to be Lecturer in Politics (1976-83) and Assistant Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research (1982-85) at the University of York (1976-85). He was appointed Professor of Politics at the University of East Anglia (1985-992) and Professor of Government at the University of Essex (1992-2009). In addition, he has held visiting positions at Yale University, the University of Dar Es Salaam and Australian National University.
During the tenure of his ESRC Professorial Fellowship, his current research is focused on questions of social contract theory, deliberative democracy and public policy. The aim of this research is to show how social contract theories of economic justice share a common conceptual basis with deliberative accounts of democracy, with clear implications for the design and evaluation of public policy.