Program Description: Democracy’s friends ought to be dancing in the aisles: the volonte generale has never had it so easy. The franchise has become universal. Hierarchical institutions that used to mediate the people’s will (foremost, political parties) or shape their opinions (such as “establishment” media) have lost much of their influence. Transparency is at an all-time high: parliamentarians as well as executive officials operate under the klieg lights, 24-7. Institutions that we do not normally associate with democratic, representative government, such as courts, private corporations, and universities, have yielded to pressure for more openness, “stakeholder participation,” and accountability.
And how has that worked out?
Arguably, not so well. Voters in the United States and in many EU countries do not seem to feel well-represented, or for that matter well-governed. Populist discontent appears to have gone hand-in-hand with “democratization.”
At the Transatlantic Law Forum’s Eleventh Annual Conference, held for the first time at the University of Bayreuth, leading experts from European countries and the United States examined “Representation” from a wide range of perspectives. What can (and should) parliaments and parties do, or do better? Should we strive to make other institutions more representative? And what exactly does representative government have to do with lawful, constitutional government?