Reflections on the Meaning of the “Crisis of Democracy”

in Democratic Theory
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  • 1 Columbia University nu15@columbia.edu
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Abstract

This article addresses a question that sits at the heart of democracy studies today: What do we mean when we speak about a “crisis of democracy”? The article opens with introductory clarifications on the meanings of the concept of crisis—namely its root in medicine, and on three contemporary perspectives of democracy—trilateral, deliberative, and crisis. These perspectives are analyzed using monoarchic and diarchic distinctions. Next, the article lists the main discourses about crisis in recent political theory literature. In conclusion, the article proposes an answer to the question of what we mean by crisis of democracy by arguing that it is not democracy in general but one form of democracy in particular that is in crisis—a parliamentary democracy based on the centrality of suffrage and political parties.

Contributor Notes

Nadia Urbinati is the Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory and Hellenic Studies at Columbia University. Her most recent book is Democracy Disfigured: Opinion, Truth, and the People (Harvard University Press, 2014).

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