WG1 Workshop 3
COST Action CA 16211 RECAST
Reappraising Intellectual Debates on Civic Rights and Democracy in Europe
Co-organised by the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Zabreb, this third workshop of Working Group 1: Practices, of COST Action RECAST, is scheduled as a in-person and online event for 8-9 July 2021 at Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Convened by Ruzha Smilova (Centre for Liberal Strategies and Sofia University), Meike Schmidt-Gleim (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Fulda University), and Ana Matan (University of Zagreb), it focuses on Liberal Democracy in Crisis? Dialectics of Politicization and Depoliticization .
The Workshop Liberal Democracy in Crisis? Dialectics of Politicisation and Depoliticisation has been the third workshop organized by Working Group 1: Practices within the frame of COST Action CA 16211 Reappraising Intellectual Debates on Civic Rights and Democracy in Europe (RECAST). It has taken place at the Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik, Croatia as a hybrid event, with eighteen participants (six joining the event on-line).
This concluding workshop summed up the results of the work undertaken within this thematic group of RECAST, and was also useful to discuss with WG’s participants the planned publication with Nomos Verlag, titled Revisiting the Crisis of Democracy: The Dialectics of Politicisation and Depoliticisation.
The introductory presentation of the book rationale and of the overarching theoretical frame of the planned publication was delivered by the Wortking Group leaders and co-editors of the planned publication Ruzha Smilova and Meike-Schmidt Gleim. It sparked a lively discussion and provoked some of the participants to reflect both on aspects of the book’s theoretical frame and on how their own work presented within the different fora organized by RECAST WG 1 Practices fits within it.
It bears mentioning here that the draft Introduction of the publication was circulated well in advance among the workshop participants in order to provide the foundation for the discussion – as participants were invited to reflect on how their own contributions could fit the theoretical framework for the volume outlined there. Following the event, some of the participants sent their written comments on the Introduction, which have since been taken into account in finalizing the text of the Introduction to the edited volume.
In the second introductory presentation the co-editor of the collection Claudia Wiesner distinguished several fields of democratic change that appeared in the European Union in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis (democratic deconsolidation, populism, democratic backsliding, technocracy, the ‘two-thirds society’ phenomenon, the globalisation trilemma and a number of “democratic innovations”) which are widely discussed yet rarely empirically studied in their interrelations, nor are actors and practices outside of the mainstream parties and institutions sufficiently addressed. Claudia Wiesner further argued that in order to better grasp the interrelated processes of democratic change, which manifest themselves in various practices, the practices of doing and undoing democracy should be studied in detail – which is indeed one of the main objectives of the planned publication. To bring coherence to the diverse analyses within it, the author presented an integrated approach to studying democratic changes.
The two-day hybrid workshop proceeded with presentations of the contributions to the three main sections of the planned publication. Within the first section, titled Depoliticization or Democracy without Politic five papers were presented and discussed: speaking online Gonçalo Marcelo (“Progressive Politics within the EU’s Fiscal Orthodoxy: Lessons from the Portuguese ‘Contraption’”) and Evgeni Dainov, (“NGOs Trajectory: Agents of Change, ‘Enemies of the People’ and Back Again”) presented their respective work first. Despite some initial technical mishaps, the presentations were well received and provoked discussion both by the on-line and offline participants. The focus of the discussion was the compatibility of the theoretical frames of the presented papers with the overall theoretical frame of the volume.
This was a recurring topic of discussion within all of the sessions. At the end of the workshop an agreement was reached that the authors will try to minimize the introduction of new theoretical frames, new authors and new conceptual traditions. There was a broad understanding reached at the end of the two-day discussion that in order to streamline the volume and make it more theoretically coherent, the authors would try to relate in their contributions to the themes and the concepts referred to in the Introduction rather than propose and develop their own.
In the second part of this thematic session three papers were presented in person – Ruzha Smilova presented her paper “Rights versus Rights? The Meritocratic Depoliticization of Human Rights”, Dušan Spasojević presented on “Narrowing the Political Space: Depoliticization as a Strategy of Anti-democratic Rule” and Aleksandra Belina outlined her draft contribution, titled “From Formalism to Activism? Social Consequences of Commercialization of NGOs”.
The contributions to the second section of the planned publication, titled Anti-democratic/Illiberal Repoliticization, were presented and discussed during the afternoon session of the first day of the workshop.
Renáta Uitz presented on-line her paper on “Capturing Public Space in Hungary: The Urban Landscape of Illiberalism”, Tonči Kursar (on-line) and Ana Matan (in person) outlined the elaborate theoretical frame of their paper “Right-wing Politicization in Croatia: A Road to a Consensus Democracy 2.0” and Přemysl Rosůlek presented – in an entertaining yet thought-provoking fashion – his chapter “Banal Nationalism Theory and rRhetoric of the Czech PM Andrej Babiš during the Covid-19 Pandemic (2020–21)”.
During the second part of this session Natalija Shikova and Claudia Wiesner presented their respective papers – “Evaluating “Regulatory Impact Assessment” as a Democratic Tool” and “The Janus-Facedness of Identity Politics, or: When Emancipatory Ideologies Take Autocratic Turns”. The latter sparked a lively discussion where theoretical arguments and empirical cases complemented each other in drawing a detailed picture of the dilemmas identity politics currently poses for the democratic emancipatory agenda.
The second day of the workshop started with an engaged discussion of some of the papers presented during the first day. Then the contributions to the third section (titled Repoliticization – The Promises) were presented. Maria Brown presented the paper (written together with Michael Briguglio) “Repoliticising Movements: The Case of Pro-LGBTIQ Rights in Malta”. Anna Krasteva presented her theoretically elaborate yet also empirically well grounded paper on “Reinventing Contestatory Citizenship in Post-Democratic Times”. The panel concluded with Meike Schmidt-Gleim who presented her paper “Nothing is Lost for History: Narrating Social Protest Practices”. Unfortunately, due to internet-connectivity problems, Christel Stormhøj could not present on-line her contribution titled “Practicing Utopia, Deepening Democracy: Feminist Activism in Denmark Today”.
The workshop concluded with clarifying and agreeing on various technical details concerning the publication, with authors agreeing to submit their chapters by 10 September 2021. Some ideas about future cooperation beyond RECAST were also shared and discussed.
The chair of RECAST, Jose Maria Rosales, was invited to contribute an introductory text for the edited volume, where he would present RECAST – its background and the way forward for the academic network that developed during its four-year period of work.
In sum, the workshop proved a successful hybrid event – it took place after, for more than a year and a half, no in-person events were organized within the framework of this COST Action due to the covid-19 pandemic. It was yet another opportunity to exchange ideas among RECAST members and plan joint academic initiatives beyond RECAST.