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
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