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Transkript: Wolfgang Merkel: What Is Democratic Resilience and Why Do We Need an Analytical Concept of It?

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Good morning to everyone out there. I highly welcome you to part 11 of 12.
This is our famous Wolfgang Merkel, who will give a talk and a presentation
on the topic what is democratic resilience and why do we need an analytic concept of it.
This will not be a conversation, so we will give a talk,
but I highly invite you to give comments using the chat function and then your
question will be asked to Wolfgang Merkel and I will moderate it.
So Wolfgang, the floor is yours. And I will, of course, before I finally hand
over to him, invite you also to our last session which will be next Friday.
And this very last session is held by Heike Solga.
And the topic will be Attractivität der beruflichen Ausbildung in der Krise?
So, Wolfgang Merke.
Thank you, Jutta. And good morning to everybody.
I have to confess right from the outset, nine o'clock in the morning is quite,
early for giving a talk and it remembers me to some extent.
Ages ago, when I was still active in sports, I always hated it to start at nine
o'clock in the morning and I love these competitions starting in the evening at six o'clock,
just a recommendation and advice or a hint for scheduling learning differently the talks.
So let me jump immediately what I'm going to present here.
The background of my talk is the observation that democratic resilience is widely
used as a term, sometimes defined,
but I never saw it developed as a concept.
And that's exactly what I'm trying to do here to present or to sketch out democratic resilience,
as what Dietrich Rieschmeyer once called as a usable theory.
Usable theory means here, it can be used for empirical research.
It's not a grand theory. it's a theoretical concept.
And I will present it, let me see.
It should here. I hope you see my slides and I jump immediately into a kind of cotton.
It does, does it work? Yes, it works brilliantly.
But it does not. But it moves as well. Okay.
Here is my cognitive map with with
which I want to lead you and of course myself as well through my talk.
I have four steps and I first want to introduce you into some empirical facts.
We should have in mind when we are talking about democratic resilience.
And this is about the erosion of democracy.
The second is I want to ask and to respond to the question, what is democratic resilience?
And want to present the building blocks, the theoretical building blocks for
the concept which I then develop as the main part of my presentation.
And then I will move one step forward in order to look at specific weak spots of democratic systems.
And I will ask and give some answers to, I will ask, how can we strengthen democratic resilience?
So, erosion is something, a term we used to use during the last years when we
are talking about the malaise of democracy.
To some extent, the term crisis disappeared.
It did not disappear from the titles of books on the present state of democracy,
but it disappeared as a concept which we apply,
to the development of democracy now in the third decade of the 21st century.
And here you see my first empirical fact.
On the vertical axis, you see a liberal democracy index which measures the quality
of liberal democracies.
When I'm talking about liberal democracies, I'm using the American,
the US American term, meaning these are democracies based on the rule of law.
Rechtsstaatliche Demokratien, as we would call it in German.
So, and on the horizontal axis, you have the time span where I want to look
at the quality of democracy.
And the red line here is an aggregation. It's an aggregation of the overall
quality of the liberal democracy.
And I have selected 32 or 33 of more or less the best democracies we have on
the globe, meaning the European Union democracy,
United Kingdom, Australia, Canada,
of course, US.
Japan, and New Zealand.
And what you see here in the red line is a continuous upward development in
the quality of democracy.
So forget about these thoughts that there was a golden age of democracy in the 1960s.
It wasn't, and this graph clearly shows that in the overall quality of democracy.
The best of those liberal democracy moved upward.
And here you have a stop, a short, very short stagnation, and it is clear it
is the year 1989, the annus mirabilis of regime changes.
And this took again, a speed in increasing the quality of democracy after 89,
until, and this is my main message here, until 2008.
From 2008, now for 15 years,
We see a continuous, significant decline in the quality of democracy.
Again, not of all countries in the world.
It would look even more traumatic of here the 32 democracies I have selected
as particular good democracies.
So here, a significant decline year per year per year until 1932.
We don't have the figures now for 2023.
And I have taken these indicators, these measurements from varieties of democracies.
Is certainly now the most and most widely accepted academic instrument measuring
the quality of democracy.
And if we look to specific countries, again, this is the overall measurement
of the quality of democracy.
You see the best performer quite often during the last decade,
the top country out of 200 countries.
It's always one of the Scandinavian countries and here it is Denmark and you don't see any decline.
This is certainly not significant.
You see the orange line, which is Germany,
where you see then from 2012 or something,
you see a beginning decline of the German democracy as well.
And here, the blue lines are the US and there is a steep decrease in the quality
associated mainly, but not only.
This is quite important, mainly with Donald Trump.
And then you see two countries, the brown one is Poland and the kind of light green is Hungary,
and you see a dramatic decline in the quality of democracy.
We are quite familiar with this. This is not unexpected, just want to...
Yeah, to move it from the table, the myth that the democracy is in decline, we have different,
first to a different degrees, and there are some where we cannot observe any
decline in the quality of democracy.
You have a similar picture if you go to regions, and I want to pick out only one information.
Here you see the green line. This is Latin America.
I don't have the regions near east. It would be quite dark.
It's the darkest region if it comes to democracy. and I did not look to sub-Saharan Africa.
So I looked to those regions where we find meaningful democracies.
And you see the green line.
I just want to demonstrate what great difference
we still see between Latin American countries,
even after three decades of democratization and for example Western Europe,
which is performing best among these regions during the last years.
Where do we find especially the weak spots and decline during the last 15 years?
We find significant declines if it comes to political violence.
Decline means here a rising in political violence.
There is less freedom of expression.
There is an increasing harassment of journalists.
And the observers are observing an increasing media bias.
And again, here I'm talking about our liberal democracies, this sample of 32 countries.
So, a rising media bias, and I should mention it, rising polarization.
There is, however, a debate, especially in Germany,
whether we see a
polarization or spaltung and split in our society and our estimated colleague
Stephen Mao and his collaborators just published a book, Trigger.
Points, where he denies that there is some polarization.
This is a fine empirical work. The interpretation is, according to my point
of view and according to the data we have from varieties of democracy,
empirically clearly wrong.
Then you have a moderate decline.
This is, if it comes to the rule of law, the equality before the law,
the independence of courts, and also individual rights.
Quite important, we have certain sectors, areas, spheres within democracy where
we don't see any decline.
And this is, if it comes to election, for these countries, elections are not more distorted.
They are still on the same level of cleanness.
And we have an increase, an increase if it comes to gender relations and question of sexual identity.
Of course, there is no equality in many respects Here we are looking over the development,
on the development over time and here this is to some extent positive news if we talk about,
quality of democracy. Here, for a second, I want to say these data are based on expert judgments.
VDEM is asking experts in the specific countries to judge their country on the
base of of more than 150 indicators.
So the experts get clear, each expert for each country get the same list of
items where she or he has to respond.
Here we have the method of expert judgments.
Just here, a brief look to the country's Here, five selected countries,
if it comes to political polarization,
again, this small country in Scandinavia, Denmark,
there is not a significant increase, or not at all if we don't look to the last two or three years,
not at all an increase of polarization.
We see one in Germany, and this has to do with the wave of migration and refugees
coming in in the year 2015.
And we have with the United States, Poland, and Hungary, dramatic increases in the polarization.
And if Marx and Alexis de Tocqueville are right in their own way,
then the United States of America might lift upward the mirror of the future
of the old continent in Europe.
We don't hope so. So, clearly the message, there are different degrees of polarization,
but most of the countries are affected, with the exception of some Scandinavian countries.
So, what is democratic resilience? Having talked about regression or de-democratization.
And erosion of democracy,
I want to move more to entera incognita, that means this is a kind of attempt I'm here presenting,
and it goes like that.
The definition is a general one.
Resilience is a kind of...
The ability, the capacity of a system.
Here, it is important to keep in mind to absorb,
withstand, or recover from stressors, from challenges,
from disturbances without undergoing a regime change, meaning maintaining its
basic defining structure and function.
So absorb, withstand, or recover.
These are three functions and instruments and movements against stress,
which the systems and certainly the democratic systems,
have in their arsenal.
And here again, resilience and democratic resilience has a double meaning.
It is on the one side, an analytic descriptive term, but it could serve also
as a normative orientation.
For political actions, especially of governments and parliaments
who will play the major role for the next time to come.
The concept. Here, as I have already announced, I'm looking at or I've filtered
out building blocks for building this concept.
I'm looking at the relevant function a resilient democratic system has to fulfill.
I'm looking at those structures, which are the main institutional frames for political actions.
One can call it also arenas, political arenas,
where third tier actors are competing with each other, communicating with each other and force,
I take it seriously.
We are talking about systems.
Democracies can be conceived and understood as systems, meaning they have a close interdependence.
Between the different factors, institutions,
and actors.
Within this system.
So feedbacks can be given from those who are governed to those who are in power.
So, and here is the core I want to present here. you see in the middle, those.
For structural arenas. I was talking about the first one is our constitutional powers.
And here, I simplify these political actors playing here on this level.
It is certainly the executive, the government.
It is about the parliaments, the legislature, legislature and the judiciary,
which starts during the last years and decades, not only in Germany,
to play a bigger role within the development of democracy.
Then still parties are the major political actors in our parliamentary democracies.
And here we see quite significant changes going on which challenge the solidity
and stability of democracy.
I come back at the end to this point as well.
A third, I should not forget it, civil society.
And here we have as actors to look at media.
How do they change, how do they interfere, how do they feed the political agenda.
Where sometimes political actors have to follow if they want or if they don't want.
And certainly the core of civil society actors are non-governmental.
Organization and the traditional interest groups as well.
If we look at the potential of democratic resilience,
we cannot leave out the political community because there are observations that
in many of these democratic countries,
the political community loses in cohesion.
Citizen groups and ethnicities sometimes do not develop a common sense of belongingness,
belonging to a political community.
And if a political community erodes.
Then democracy will not flourish in such a country and might slip on into autocratic systems of governance.
In the corners here, here in the middle, you have the structural core of undemocratic systems.
And in the corners here, I have painted four,
paradigmatically four major challenges which already bothered our democracies
or will stress them in the famous 2020s.
We have to look at the climate change.
It will go beyond, as we all know, the 2020s.
We have recurring economic crisis, which we forgot in the rich,
developed, capitalist democracies for the last 20 years.
They are recurring. we saw an incredible stress on the constitutional structure
of the society and the political system through the pandemic, COVID-19,
and an ongoing stress on democracy of political,
sorry, and stress caused.
By a difficultly.
I have to be cautious,
development and migration and refugee flow, which the developed democracies
obviously cannot control, but they have to deal with it.
And this is one of those areas where the challenges of liberal democracy,
right-wing populists found fertile ground in order to attract voters,
and followers.
You see here what I already outlined before, three forms of democratic resilience to withstand stress.
And if the stress already is pressing severely on institutions and procedures
and actors of a democratic system to adjust,
to adapt to the new circumstances.
So resilience is not a static thing.
It is dynamic and political systems can react by reforms. for example,
to the changed environment.
And if there has already been some damage to the structure and procedures and
functions of democracy, it can recover.
It can recover and go back to a higher quality of democracy.
And now it comes, for our focus, maybe the most important one.
If I look at democratic resilience, I think three conditions have to be fulfilled,
and And they decide to some extent in our decade how democracy will perform
and whether democracy survives as a liberal one.
There must be an understanding of the future. Remember what I have shown to you here in the corner.
Just take the climate change.
Political decision makers and the society as a whole have to get an understanding
which are the problems to be solved in the future.
And if you look at the climate change, science plays an incredibly important
role and the political systems one can observe,
during the last, let's say 10 years is opening more and more to specific sciences.
This is not an unproblematic relation between science and politics because politics
often tries to instrumentalize science and science sometimes tries to politicize,
to or scientifies.
The democratic system. So to use the terms or words of Niklas Luhmann,
there must be only a loose coupling between science on the one side and politics on the other side.
They should inform each other, but they should not disturb each other.
Otherwise, they would undermine the logic of functioning, of communication within
these, as Luhmann says, partial system.
The second one, and I by myself see indicators that this will be probably the
cardinal point in the 2020s to solve problems.
So we are talking here not about input, not about what we used to talk after
1989, democratizing democracy.
Here we are talking about not the input, but the output.
As Chancellor Helmut Kohl once said, important is what the output is.
Was hinten herauskommt. And this will be the focus.
This will be the focus of many citizens. And I will show you in a minute that
many citizens are prepared to give up democratic procedures,
veto position, if they can expect the right outcome.
This certainly subverts some of the principles of democracy.
And the third thing is all these transformations transformations which are going on.
And again, take climate change.
They will see what one can call a valley of tears.
Our societies will or have to go through in this post-fossil transformations which are going on.
And politics has to organize and decision-making.
Which distributes fairly the burdens which unavoidably come,
especially at the beginning of each transformation.
This is again something the use of the term transformation misses to a large
extent in our public discourses.
So, these three functions of resilience to understand the future,
so to say, to listen to science, but to do.
Their own democratic decision. Science cannot decide, science can inform and
should not try to impact into the decision-making,
of problem-solving.
Policies. Again, fair burden sharings and problems have to be solved.
Then I see a larger importance of outputs than inputs if it comes to the legitimacy of democracy.
And here only just a reminder, these four levels are causally interconnected.
We do not know sufficiently about this causalities. This should be a focus of
our research in the future as well.
How are they connected?
And do we see a time sequence if a system is infected, so to say,
by the virus of illiberal measures or decline in the quality of democracy and
other fears of the democratic system.
So I'm coming to the last quarter of my presentation.
I see trade-offs in times of crisis, and it's not, I shouldn't say I see,
we have now surveys which.
Show it with their method and instrument that the people,
that the citizens in those democracies we are talking about are prepared to
trade correct democratic procedures.
For the wanted outcome, for the wanted output.
And it is interesting that this does not happen only on the right fringe of
our democratic systems.
But if we look to the right wing, then people are prepared to reduce
the democratic input into policy if they get the wanted outcome to reduce immigration
or even to stop immigration,
then they don't bother too much whether these decisions were taken in a correct
procedure of parliamentary discourses and so forth.
So they want to have simply the reduction of immigration and it is of secondary
importance whether these decision-making has been democratically correct.
We see it to some extent on the left ecological wing as well,
if it comes to the reduction of greenhouse gases.
This is important and there's a certain logic in it.
And if I do think this is something which decides to be or not to be of human mankind, then uh...
It is important to solve this problem.
And it's again of secondary importance if all these veto players we necessarily
have in a democratic decision-making procedure.
If they have sufficiently room of bringing in their thinking,
their values, their interests.
And we see it among neoliberals as well.
Look at the voters of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump proposed and did decrease taxes and even democratic neoliberals
would see this as the most important thing.
And they tolerate all the other undemocratic behavior of a politician who is
going to reduce the taxes.
How can we strengthen democratic resilience? And I don't go through all these
four arenas and levels I have shown to you.
Certainly, and I pick something out of it, I already talked about the necessity,
to rebalance input and output legitimacy,
certainly throughput, which is meant as the correct procedure of decision-making plays a role as well.
If we shift democracies one-sidedly.
To the output side, then we will have an impoverishment of inputs and a violation
of certain decision-making,
procedure as well.
So looking again back on inputs, but having in mind that we need an effective
problem solving as well.
This is certainly a very subtle trade-off we have to organize.
Parties and party system. As I have already said before, the major attack on
our liberal democracies now comes from right-wing,
populist parties and here we have to think about to distinguish between in followers,
voters on the one side, and the political right-wing political elites,
on the other side.
We have to convert these followers from what I call with the words of Juan Lintz,
we have to convert the followers of these semi-loyal parties.
They are very often not open anti-system parties,
but they have an instrumentalized approach if it comes and when it comes to democracy.
So the established parties have to re-strengthen their representativeness and responsiveness.
They left open and space are for representation where the right-wing populist parties marched in.
Even in the same way, very briefly,
I think the most important thing is, if it comes to civil society,
not simply and flourishing of all these civic organizations,
they have to produce bridging social capital.
If we have so many NGOs, if we have so many civic association,
which are organized within ethnicities and religious groups and classes,
then we might produce bonding social capital,
but bonding social capital fragments our societies and erodes the sense of belongingness
to a common political system as well.
And here, I already mentioned it in my last sentence.
We should strengthen this common sense of belongingness, which is evaporating
in many of our democracies, and we should avoid it.
We here, I'm talking somehow unscholarly about most of us here in this circle.
We should not simply exclude the others by our moral standards.
And we should be aware these are our moral standards and might be different one.
And we should move away from characterizing politics as moral and amoral as true, or as,
so to say untruthfulness and so forth. This over-moralization,
of politics does not bring citizens,
So, the conclusion is very brief,
this concept can be used especially for case studies,
it gives guidance for process tracing
if we look to the evolution of democratic regimes and And of course we can take
out parts of this concept I tried to present here,
but we should always have in mind that these partial analyses,
the parts of the regime are embedded in a larger systemic interdependence.
And this is, so to say, my Ceterum Censio.
We see from a substantial point, there is a similar development in the US and
in Europe, but there are serious gradual differences among the countries.
So we still can look at best performers and we can try to learn.
This doesn't mean that we simply have to copy their politics.
And again, and I'm ending with this, output weakness matters for the.
Evolution of our liberal democracies.
And this, we have to keep more in mind than we used to do when we were talking
about the input of society.
And here is some propaganda.
Some of the publication where we, or me, I have written down this and similar
problems and I thank you very much for your patience listening to me.
Thank you very very much Wolfgang. I really enjoyed this last slide as well.
Now, on page 16 of your presentation, you developed a couple of sets of to-do's,
which however remained quite vague, I think.
So, could you be more concrete, please?
You mean this? This one, yes, 19. I mean, this is nicely said,
but what exactly needs to be done?
It's also referring to 18. I don't have numbers, is it here?
I see your numbers. I mean, when you talk about stressing,
well, continue. No, 17, 18. No,
stay with 18, please.
What exactly are you suggesting to do to bridge social capital or to produce
bonding social capital which also is very needed because you need your families
and your closer circle of friends and things like this?
This is certainly not an easy task. I'm mentioning it because we we're using, or some of us.
For example, the Johns Hopkins research on civil society, just counting how many social clubs,
associations, and interest groups and NGOs we have in a society.
I want to focus our intention that this kind of civil society can have dark sides.
So to give you an example, Pegida is part of the civil society.
It's an uncivil part of the civil society.
And this certainly will not improve our democratic quality of society and the political regime.
And if I'm talking about reaching social capital.
This is something which has to come out of society.
And here I see the limits of steering the development.
But if we see how the state, the government.
Influences also the structure of the civil society by financing groups,
then by financing foundations.
They are structured to some extent to civil society as well,
simply by supporting certain parts
and not supporting certain parts or excluding it from subsidizing it.
And here we are, the
political authorities have clearly to
figure out which of those civic
organizations or even religious organizations should be supported and which
we should not support because they don't produce these bridges among sub-systems.
Of the society. Okay, thank you.
Then there's another question in the chat posed by Tami Prokowinski.
And she says, the theoretical framework around the concept of democratic resilience
is very impressive and definitely not simply an embedded democracy to zero,
which means that you went much beyond your previous theoretical and analytical model.
Could you tell us how you see this evolution and how the current challenges
led you to to reinterpret previous concepts and choose new ones to work with?
I'm not sure if... it was probably over complex for me completely to understand
the question. She is asking you about the development of your own thinking.
So the transition of your concept of the embedded democracy on what you presented today.
It's always difficult to talk about oneself.
And I welcome, of course, each applause to this thing.
The difference is I developed this concept of embedded and defective democracy
around 2000, in 2003 and 2004.
At this time, we were talking about the democratization of democracy.
We did not talk about crisis of democracy.
These books came out 10 years later and we saw a real avalanche.
And at that time, I was quite optimistic that we are entering,
not in the Fukuyama sense, but we are entering an age of democratization.
And so I was more interested.
How to democratize democracy than to immunize democracy from all these attacks.
But at that time, I have to say, I already saw that we have a trend of illiberalization.
This is one part of the defective democracy.
There are illiberal parts and today if I'm looking at,
at my thinking about the vulnerability of democracy.
I also see in democracies such as our ones that we tend to ask for illiberal
instruments to stop the liberals.
So to give you an example, to ban political parties, The pledge that we should simply ban right-wing.
Populist parties to strengthen their half the democracy,
militant democracy.
This is to dare less democracy in my thinking,
and we should have a focus more on these developments and how we could avoid these traps.
Dict by illiberal forces that we counter them by illiberal instruments and policies.
So illiberalization, I see one of the major problems,
we are faced with in times of these mega challenges challenges,
these accumulation of challenges,
and the accumulation of these unresolved challenges is something which causes
tremendous stress for democracy,
therefore we have to think about how to immunize it, how to strengthen it,
and how to promote the stability of democracy.
It's more about stability than about democratization.
Thank you very much. Then there is one final other question,
and this refers back to the bridging and bonding of social capital.
And Katrin Schwenk asked for some examples of both.
So what kind of efforts do you exactly mean? The
efforts I was talking about that the government which does interfere into the
structuring of civil society should be very selective and should not,
as I already said,
should not promote each of these NGOs or each of the civic association.
But I have to be clear, there are limits of structuring it.
So it's something about the civil society as well.
Those who are looking at the community as a whole one,
and not simply to civilize small areas where I belong to.
Again, if we think about these liberal cosmopolitan spheres of our society,
then they should not simply try to dictate their opinion as the only one, the only moral one,
and should hesitate to exclude others from the community of Democrats.
And there was a famous article in 1995 by Robert Putnam, he titled his article with Bowling Alone.
So, meaning there is an escape from the classical traditional association,
which quite often bridge different communities within a society.
I don't want to portray the past as a wonderful one,
but now we see deeper cleavages between a society which is more diverse today as it was 40 years ago.
Therefore, we have to be more productive in thinking how to build these bridges.
And I confess, I don't have here a proposal just to implement,
but this will be an important task for our societies.
Thank you. Thank you very, very, very much indeed, Wolfgang.
And thanks to all of you outside there to listen to this part.
I'm repeating myself, but you are most invited to join our concluding session,
which will be next Friday, same time.
I learned that nine o'clock is not the best time, but we'll stay with nine o'clock.
And it's Heiko Solga asking the question whether the attractivity of the vocational
training system, of the most famous German vocational training system, is in a state of crisis.
So have a good week and I'm looking forward to meeting you again next week. Bye-bye.