Conference: What is the Social Bond of Democracy?

Whenever a democracy faces a severe crisis, it is common that scholars redirect their attention from political institutions to their societal preconditions. Instead of asking what makes democratic institutions just or legitimate, they raise the more foundational question about what animates and sustains them. What is the social bond needed for a democracy to sustain and renew itself over time? Conflict? Civility? Solidarity?

In this workshop, we acknowledge that while traditional answers referring to “liberal nationalism” and “constitutional patriotism” still hold sway over the contemporary imagination, many of the challenges we face today are cross-border in nature, such as climate change, migration, polarization, digitalisation and accelerating global inequality. These challenges raise new and difficult questions. How, for example, does the climate crisis and loss of biodiversity change the conditions for solidarity and civic engagement? Can conflict between alternative futures be a potential source of cohesion rather than polarisation? Is the demand for civility a way to combat hate speech or a covert way to create conformity? And what could solidarity mean under these new conditions?