skip to Main Content

Working Group on Democracy

Description

This group gathers researchers from various disciplines who are interested in questions of democracy, power and legitimacy, and how these relate to the challenges of governing contemporary social-ecological interactions. We are particularly keen to explore the tensions and synergies between democratic and environmental values across all levels.

Our group has a strong presence at Earth System Governance conferences, and we have published a scoping article in the Earth System Governance journal on democratizing sustainability transformations in the Earth System Governance journal arising from discussions and collaborations within the working group.

 

Background

Despite the urgency and scale of global environmental threats, many democratic states are struggling to act swiftly on problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss. At the same time, the resurgence of authoritarianism in many countries – often with an anti-environmental streak – threatens progress towards sustainability.

Questions on democracy and democratic legitimacy are thus central to the scholarship and practice of environmental politics and green political theory. Democratic values, such as representation, inclusion, participation, accountability, and transparency are central research themes in Earth System Governance. More radical concepts including deliberation, consensus, reflexivity, direct democracy, diffusion, and egalitarianism have been coined, studied, and promoted by ESG scholars from various disciplines, pushing the mainstream democratic values to more progressive policies. There has been a rise in attempts to increase participation and accountability on national levels, in regional and global environmental summits, such as multi-stakeholder dialogues, institutionalized representation of NGOs, and civil society deliberation. These may represent democratic innovations, which have consolidated a model of “participatory” or “bottom up” environmental governance aimed to reduce the “democratic deficit”, yet they might create new conflicts and challenges to be explored.

 

Aims

The aim of this working group is to critically explore the tensions and synergies between various types and values of democracy and planetary change on local, national and global levels. Eco-authoritarians are sceptical that democracy with its slow and cumbersome process can handle the scale and severity of the global environmental crisis while work on democratic innovations and new forms of citizenship reflect reconciliation between environmental politics and democracy. Others suggest technocratic solutions could resolve the tensions between democracy as we know it, and ecological catastrophes that are taking place. The working group examines how practices of environmental politics relate to various models of democracy, such as deliberative, representative, radical, ecological, stakeholder and participatory democracy. Another purpose of the working group is to explore relationships between democracy, expertise and planetary change.

Some key questions are: Can global environmental threats such as climate change be best handled within the institutions of democracy? Alternatively, are democratic polities too slow and cumbersome to handle accelerating global risks? Or is a shift in our understanding and current practices of democracy needed to address to these challenges? For example, might other forms of democracy, such as direct, deliberative or ecological democracy be better equipped to handle environmental problems than representative democracy? Do mechanisms to increase representation and participation of civil society and NGOs in international policy processes lead to a democratization of global environmental politics? Or conversely, how can NGOs increase democratic credentials if they are not democratic themselves? Can (and should) democracies of a different scale (beyond the nation-state and the current international system) be imagined for future democratic governance of the Earth’s systems? Does the de-politicization and technocratization, carbonification, and scientization of environmental politics lead to post-democratic politics?

 

Working Group Co-Conveners

Ayṣem Mert, Department of Political Science, Stockholm University

Azucena Morán, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam

Frederic Hanusch, THE NEW INSTITUTE, Hamburg, and Panel on Planetary Thinking, Gießen University

Julia Tschersich, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University

 

Activities and Events

Upcoming events

  • Working Group meeting at the Earth System Governance Conference in Toronto on the Taskforce Meeting Day on 24th October.
  • Shared Walks for Climate Change, Innovative Session at the Earth System Governance Conference in Toronto

Selected previous events and activities

  • ESG Speaker Series on Democratising Sustainability Transformations, 20th September, in collaboration with the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance
  • Working Group meeting at the Bratislava ESG Conference 2021
  • Panel on “Democratic innovation & exnovation” at Bratislava ESG Conference 2021

 

Recent/Key publications focusing on Earth System Governance and Democracy

Baber, W. F., & Bartlett, R. V. (2021). Democratic Norms of Earth System Governance: Deliberative Politics in the Anthropocene. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.10.1017/9781108923651

Dryzek, J. S., & Tanasoca, A. (2021). Democratizing Global Justice: Deliberating Global Goals. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108954167

Eadson, W., & Van Veelen, B. (2021). Assemblage-democracy: Reconceptualising democracy through material resource governance. Political Geography88, 102403. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2021.102403

Eckersley, R. (2020) Ecological democracy and the rise and decline of liberal democracy: looking back, looking forward, Environmental Politics, 29:2, 214-234, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2019.1594536

Eckersley, R. (2021). Greening states and societies: from transitions to great transformations. Environmental Politics30:1-2, 245-265. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2020.1810890

Hanusch, F. (2018). Democracy and Climate Change. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315228983

Hanusch, F., & Meisch, S. (2022). The temporal cleavage: the case of populist retrotopia vs. climate emergency. Environmental Politics. 31:5, 883-903, https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2022.2044691

Mert, A. (2021). Challenges to Democracy in the Anthropocene. In International Relations in the Anthropocene (pp. 291-309). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53014-3_16

Pereira, J. C., & Saramago, A. (Eds.). (2020). Non-human nature in world politics: Theory and practice. Springer Nature. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-49496-4

Pickering, J., Bäckstrand, K. & Schlosberg, D. (2020). Special Issue: Ecological and environmental democracy, Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning. 22:1.

Pickering, J., Hickmann, T., Bäckstrand, K., Kalfagianni, A., Bloomfield, M., Mert, A., … & Lo, A. Y. (2022). Democratising sustainability transformations: Assessing the transformative potential of democratic practices in environmental governance. Earth System Governance, 11, 100131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esg.2021.100131

Schlosberg, D., Bäckstrand, K. & Pickering, J. (2019). Perspectives on Ecological Democracy. Special Issue of Environmental Values 28:1.

Sénit, C. A., & Biermann, F. (2021). In whose name are you speaking? The marginalization of the poor in global civil society. Global Policy, 12:5, 581-591. https://doi.org/10.1111/1758-5899.12997

Thew, H., Middlemiss, L., & Paavola, J. (2021). Does youth participation increase the democratic legitimacy of UNFCCC-orchestrated global climate change governance? Environmental Politics30:6, 873-894. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2020.1868838

Tschersich, J., & Kok, K. P. W. (2022). Deepening democracy for the governance toward just transitions in agri-food systems. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 43, 358–374. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2022.04.012

 

Recent updates via twitter

@ESG_Democracy

 

Associated Research Lenses

Democracy and Power

Twitter

Twitter updates

@ESG_Democracy

People

Scientific Steering Committee
Research Fellows

You might like these too

Taskforce on Earth System Law
The Task Force on Earth System Law is composed of a large member network worldwide, which accommodates an interdisciplinary community of scientists focusing on the legal challenges of the Anthropocene and the many complex, multi-scalar governance challenges arising from within an Earth System context.
Taskforce on Climate Governance
Climate governance must better reflect characteristics of sectoral systems.
Taskforce on Ocean Governance

The Taskforce on Ocean Governance seeks to address the daunting multi-level challenge of oceans governance in…

Recent publications

Governing Climate Change: Polycentricity in Action?

Climate change governance is in a state of enormous flux. New and more dynamic forms of governing are appearing around…

Who Governs Internationally Shared Watercourses? Clearing the Muddy Waters of International River Basin Organizations

Institutions that have been set up by riparian states to internationally govern shared water resources – international River Basin Organizations…

Managing Institutional Complexity and Fragmentation: The Nagoya Protocol and the Global Governance of Genetic Resources

This article explores the impact of the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity on the complex of international…