Conference ‘Power and Counterpower in Democracy: Multidisciplinary Perspectives'
As both old and new democracies experience increasing democratic backsliding, there is a critical societal need to rethink the design and effectiveness of democratic checks and balances. In this conference on Friday 9 June, the aim is to explore multidisciplinary insights about what makes the checks and balances robust and what the main factors are that lead to their dismantling.
Four questions to Dr Honorata Mazepus, one of the conference organisers, about the conference ‘Power and Counterpower in Democracy: Multidisciplinary Perspectives':
Why did you organise this event?
Mazepus: ‘This event marks the conclusion of the interdisciplinary project ‘Keeping the powerful in check’ (sponsored by the Leiden University Fund). The conference focuses on democratic checks and balances and brings together scholars from different disciplines who will present their perspectives on checks and balances and share findings of their research. The workshops and the keynote by Prof John Gerring aim to stimulate a cross-disciplinary exchange and generate new ideas about how the power of governing elites is constrained and encouraged in democracies.'
The main question of this conference is: 'Under what conditions can checks and balances effectively restrain the power of political leaders?' What kind of answers/results are you hoping for?
Mazepus: ‘We are hoping to identify these conditions from the perspective of different disciplines: anthropology, history, law, public administration, and political psychology. The result we would like to see is a broadening of our understanding of checks and balances, proposing new explanations of when they work and when they fail. We would like to initiate a new research agenda on checks and balances and facilitate networking with a goal of finding out how to strengthen democratic institutions to avoid authoritarian leadership.’
Your workshop is about ‘Minds of Citizens: How and why citizens (don’t) use checks and balances?’ What kind of lessons can be learned and what will you discuss?
Mazepus: ‘In my workshop we are concerned with the human political mind: how it makes sense of political institutions and reacts to the political environment. In my earlier work, I found out that citizens who supported a party that lost elections, find checks and balances such as media freedom and the ability of courts to limit the actions of governments more important than citizens who win elections (you can read more about this research here). This so-called my-party bias is just one of the factors that affects whether citizens like democratic institutions more or less. In this workshop, we will discuss these factors and whether they steer us (citizens) toward or away from democracy. We will discus methods and findings from anthropology that give us ideas about how politics worked in small scale societies. We will also engage with new work in political science, and political psychology in particular.’
Who should register for this conference?
Mazepus: ‘This is an academic event open to both scholars and students, but also of interest to those dealing with issues of democratic governance in their professions (e.g., in NGOs, political organisations, expert bodies, think-tanks, or other practitioners).
Actually anyone who is interested in how liberal democracies developed contemporary checks and balances, how they currently function, and what citizens make of them will have an excellent opportunity to engage with scholars and discuss their ideas. We have an exciting programme with great presentations and plenty of time for discussions. And who knows, maybe in the course of this afternoon we will find a new way to keep the powerful in check!’
'We’ve still got some spots available, so we invite interested students, colleagues, and practitioners to register via this form as soon as possible. If you would like to join only for the keynote, you can register here.’
The conference and the lecture are organised by Dr Honorata Mazepus (ISGA, FGGA), Dr Anne Heyer (History, FGW) and Dr Wouter Veenendaal (Political Science, FSW) and is the culmination of their project 'Keeping the Powerful in Check' (funded by the Leiden University Fund). The Centre for Dutch Politics and Governance (CNPB) and the Centre for the Study of Political Parties and Representation (CSPPR) co-organise this lecture.Conference 'Power and Counterpower in Democracy'