Lecture #5 – University of Copenhagen

The Democratic Decline in EU Member States

By Postdoc Theresa Scavenius

Sign up for the lecture here

Abstract of lecture:

The European political system not only loses legitimacy and support in the wake of Brexit and the rising right-wing populism. The EU also loses democratic and institutional governance capacities. The criticism of the EU is not primarily a critique that expresses the supranational power and strength of the EU but, on the contrary, a critique that expresses the institutional weakness of the European political system, which fails to create novel European solutions to the immigration crisis, the climate crisis and social inequality affecting the European cooperation negatively. The consequence is that the political compromises between the European countries become more difficult and the democratic dialogue across political disagreement is hampered.

The predominant political populism and criticism of the EU with Brexit and Le Pen at the forefront is a symptom of an underlying institutional and democratic challenge of the European Union. Our focus on populist movements derives attention away from the real political issues the European Union face. Populism is not the cause of political difficulties. Instead, populism is a consequence of the declining institutional and functional basic structure of modern democracy, which is currently being demolished in several European countries.

The lack of management capacity, which is the consequence of decades of experimentation with marketization of political domains, explains that populist leaders can gain political power with authoritarian political programmes in countries such as Poland and Hungary.

Introduction to Theresa Scavenius:

Theresa Scavenius is postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She has published widely on climate politics, global justice, and the relationship between facts and norms. Her recent publications include “Fact-Sensitive Political Theory,” published in CRISPP (2017), “The Issue of No Moral Agency in Climate Action,” published in Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics (2017), and “The Tragedy of the Few,” published in Res Publica (2016). She co-edits the book Compromise and Disagreement in Contemporary Political Theory together with Christian Rostbøll (Routledge New York, forthcoming) and the book Institutional Capacity for Climate Response together with Steve Rayner (Routledge, London, forthcoming).