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In many European countries the majority of people have lost the feeling that their vote really matters. There is a trend of steadily declining electoral turnout in most Western democracies. And the people least likely to vote are the poor, the unemployed and the young. In short, it is those who should be most interested in using the political system to change their lot who do not take part in the electoral process. The dramatic decline of trust in democratic institutions since the 1970s is painfully shown by the fact that, in the majority of Western societies, nearly everyone under the age of forty has lived their entire life in a country where the majority of citizens do not trust their national government. The central political paradox of our time is that the key cultural, economic and technological factors that contributed to the democratization of society have also led to the erosion of trust in democratic institutions. The transformation of the democratic regimes in the West has resulted in a situation where citizens are freer than ever before, but voters feel their power declining. Globalization and European integration, combined with new opportunities opened up by the digital revolution, have led to a radical questioning of the legitimacy of the institutions of representative democracy, and sharpened tensions between national democracies and the global market, and between the principles of democratic majoritarianism and those of liberal constitutionalism.
What, then, are the causes of the current disappointment with democracy, and how will they affect the capacity of democratic societies to remain self-correcting? This research focus offers an intellectual, interdisciplinary platform to study and discuss some of these fundamental questions which democratic societies face today.