Democracy Disrupted: Social Identity, Communication, and Electoral Politics
The democratic process is in chaos in many nations. Center parties are losing support, the right is rising, and, with a few notable exceptions, parties on the left seem less able to adapt to changing societies and citizen identities. This course explores current structural problems of democracy, beginning with the fragmentation of societies and the personalization of politics that have taken different forms on the right and the left. The right has had greater success electorally with the rise of populist rhetoric and radical parties. On the left, commitments to diversity, and direct deliberative participation have challenged representative democracy and conventional party organization. The course explores the social foundations of different patterns of participation and the contrasting communication processes that engage different kinds of citizen discontent, from the angry populist rhetoric on the right, to hybrid cyber parties on the left. The focus of readings will be on Europe and the US, but students are welcome to apply the ideas to other nations as well. Readings, discussions and a research project will help students develop understandings about the kinds of communication and organization processes that best engage citizens with different political orientations in the core democratic processes of movements, parties and elections.