International Interdisciplinary Summer School 2016

Post-democratic Challenges

with Colin Crouch

June 20th – June 24th, 2016




Facing decreasing participation in elections and a widespread scepticism towards parliamentary politics, many observers have pointed to signs of malaise within liberal democracies. This year's Unseld Lecturer Colin Crouch argues that we are in fact witnessing a transition towards a post-democratic society. By offering an analysis of contemporary politics framed around the concept of "Post-Democracy", the political sociologist Crouch explores the deeper social and economic forces that account for the current malaise. Policy is made in small circles of the politico-economic elite: "While the forms of democracy remain fully in place, politics and governments are increasingly slipping back into the control of privileged elites in the manner characteristic of pre-democratic times."

In his analysis of contemporary democracy Crouch refers to its development: Starting from a nobility-centered forms of government, democracy evolved into a universal representative democracy, a process that culminated in an advanced welfare state after the two world wars. In addition to representative democracy and the welfare state, democratic momentum is characterized by strong socio-economic movements that are able to influence politics and governments. Governments themselves, though, have to be capable of implementing political decisions and pursuing political programs which meet the concerns of ordinary people. However, contemporary democracies seem to have lost this capacity to some major degree. This is why Crouch sees democratic development to be in decline today.

The decline, according to Crouch, is the result of two major historical trends. First has been the reduction in the size of the manual working class in industry, the main social group that carried the mass-democratic project. The new classes of post-industrial society lack the sense of political identity that gave the industrial working class its power. Second, the economy has become global, while democracy has great difficulty reaching beyond the national level.

In particular, Crouch argues that governments are losing their capacity to act autonomously of business interests and lobbies. More and more state functions are delegated to the private sector and governments increasingly have difficulties delineating public-private boundaries. As a result, global companies have become the key institutional actors in the post-democratic world and, thus, enjoy almost unlimited access to the centre of political decision-making and with it undue policy influence. However, there is no democratic mandate for or control of private decision makers. This process threatens the sovereignty of democratic governments; they more and more turn into another nexus of the anonymous global net of contracting and subcontracting.

Crouch maintains that a true market economy and liberal democracy require clear demarcation lines between politics and markets, but this is impossible to achieve. Instead, well functioning democracies have to build on means of political participation which go beyond the organization of periodic elections. They need a common public sphere, in which political discourse about the common goods can take place involving political parties, interest groups, NGO's, media and other forums. If we want to preserve a minimum level of democratic governance facing global economic challenges, then we might have to move beyond the state and establish compensatory transnational democratic structures.

Taking into consideration the challenges addressed by Crouch's diagnosis of post-democracy this summer school will furthermore include related topics like the crisis of neoliberalism, the relation between democracy and capital, as well as the question of how democracy can find new strength to establish an inviolable realm of politics in which the public goods dominate. Besides the discussion of Colin Crouch's research selected participants are invited to present their own research on the following topics:

  • Why has neo-liberalism survived its crisis?

  • Will capitalism stay democratic?

  • Will democracy find new inspirations and strengthen again?

Colin Crouch is a British sociologist and political scientist. His main research areas are the structure of European societies, economic sociology, neo-institutional analysis, local economic developments and public service reforms. Crouch, who coined the post-democracy term and concept, is currently Emeritus Professor at the University of Warwick and external Scientific Member of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne.


The interdisciplinary summer school will take place at the Forum Scientiarum of Tübingen University, from June 20th - June 24th, 2016 During the summer school, twenty graduate students and junior scientists from all over the world will have the opportunity to discourse post-democratic developments and challenges with this year's Unseld lecturer Colin Crouch. In addition, up to twelve participants will be selected to present their own research related to Crouch's work during the summer school. The participants will also attend the Unseld Lecture held by Colin Crouch and an interdisciplinary colloquium, both open to the public.

Application procedure

To apply for the international summer school, applicants have to send in a completed application form downloadable from our website (, including a CV according to usual standards. Additionally, each applicant is required to submit an essay of up to 5000 characters. This essay should delineate your specific motivations and qualifications for the summer school's topic. Deadline for the receipt of complete applications (application form, CV, essay) is February 20th, 2016. A letter of admission will reach successful applicants by March 15th.

There is no program fee. The Forum Scientiarum seeks to facilitate the participation

of competent students from all over the world, and as the Forum Scientiarum is provided a limited fund by the Udo Keller Foundation Forum Humanum for covering part of travel expenses, limited financial resources should not affect your decision to apply. Moreover, the Forum Scientiarum will assist participants in finding inexpensive accommodation. For more information please see our website.

Applications should be sent to unseld[at] or to our postal address:

Doblerstr. 33
D-72074 Tübingen

We ask applicants to subscribe to a mailing list for further updates on this event. For subscription, send an e-mail to unseld[at] including the name of your university.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by e-mail or consult our website.





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