Mittwoch, 17. Mai 2023, 18:30 - 20:00 iCal

Representative Democracy as a Contested Concept

Parliaments after the French, Russian and Digital Revolutions

14. Gerald Stourzh-Vorlesung zur Geschichte der Menschenrechte und der Demokratie

gehalten von Pasi Iahalainen (Universität Jyväskylä)

Hauptgebäude der Universität Wien, Gerda Lerner-Hörsaal 41
Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien


Democracy is a highly contested and historically elastic concept. The analysis of its changing meanings benefits from comparisons over time and beyond national histories, nowadays supported by digital history. In this lecture, I analyse conceptual struggles over representative democracy in parliamentary contexts after three revolutions: the French, the Russian, and the digital. From the 1790s, we can find not only persistence of the classical, pejorative, conception of democracy but also gradual re-evaluations towards representative democracy in both British and French parliaments. From the late 1910s, we can observe transnational links, common features and national peculiarities in redefinitions of representative democracy in Britain, Germany, Sweden and Finland. In our time, theorists suggest that democracy is changing, but how could we catch this change empirically? Taking parliaments as analytical nexuses, our research group has compared British, French and German debates. For most MPs in the 2000s, parliamentary or representative democracy had to be reformed to include more participation to reflect societal changes, new media structures and deepening European integration. Yet such consensus crumbled by the end of the 2010s, with a polarisation over direct democratic instruments and a stronger defence of the representative model.

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Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät


Birgitta Bader-Zaar
Institut für Geschichte, Universität Wien