The Swiss Paradox

Egalitarianism and Hierarchy in a Model Democracy

in Social Analysis
Author:
Marina Gold Researcher, University of Zurich, Switzerland margogold@gmail.com

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Abstract

The Swiss system of direct democracy is in many ways paradoxical. The federal structure counteracts the formation of centralizing state hierarchies and protects the egalitarian representation of local political interests. Simultaneously, local political structures can have hierarchical and exclusionary effects, especially when democratic processes are turned into values. This article considers the tensions between egalitarian and hierarchical values in Swiss democratic structures in the wake of the rise of anti-foreigner and anti-EU passions harnessed by extreme right-wing parties. These tensions are heightened in the context of global processes that are transforming the structures of the state, as corporate power undermines state apparatuses with the potential to subvert democratic practices.

Contributor Notes

Marina Gold received a PhD in Anthropology from Deakin University and conducted research in Cuba between 2008 and 2016 on the lived experience of the political idea of revolution. She is currently a Researcher for the ERC Advanced Grant project “Egalitarianism: Forms, Processes, Comparisons” (project code 340673) led by Bruce Kapferer at the University of Bergen in Norway. Her postdoctoral interests include tensions between egalitarian human rights discourse, NGOs, and refugees in Europe; local and global structures of power; and the transformation of the nation-state into a more corporatized form. She has lived in Zurich since 2015, and has an associated reseacher position at the University of Zurich Institut für Sozialanthropologie und Empirische Kulturwissenschaft. E-mail: margogold@gmail.com

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The International Journal of Anthropology

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