Is Democracy Equipped for This? Renewing civic infrastructure in a time of populism and polycrisis

This moment is one of not a single major crisis, but of many. Indeed, some thinkers have come to call this time one of “polycrisis” (“a cluster of related global risks with compounding effects, such that the overall impact exceeds the sum of each part”) or “permacrisis” (“an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events”). Whatever the term, it is clear that the manifold crises of this moment—climate crisis, forced migration, inequality, inadequately regulated technology, and othering of all kinds—are deeply interconnected and regenerating one another, ultimately offering fertile ground for anxiety and misinformation stoked by authoritarian populists globally.

And this fearmongering seems to be working: as one recent paper noted, citizens around the world are “voting away the democracies they claim to cherish,” perhaps on some level with the belief that democratic systems are unable to deliver solutions that authoritarians are offering so effortlessly. In this panel, Indy Johar, Asma Mhalla, Jeff Kwasi Klein, and Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou will explore the implications of the interrelated crises of our time on democracy and how civic infrastructure—already cracking under the weight of low trust and hostile populism—can be renewed not only to better respond to populism and polycrisis, but to protect the concerns of marginalized groups, who are so often either cast aside in times of crisis or vilified for them. Ultimately, this panel will explore how we might revitalize democracy at a time when it may seem increasingly unequipped to handle the complex and interrelated crises we face.

Friday, October 27, 2023