The Global Crisis and the Future of Democracy

The project is concerned with the sustainability of democracy around the globe in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial and economic crisis. Its underlying hypothesis holds that the crisis might have occasioned a shift towards a different geo-political configuration, away from the paradigm established in the mid-1970s and accelerated after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in which many countries in all the regions of the world aspired to adopt the model epitomised by the established democracies of the North-West with their seemingly ever-progressing economic development and a set of institutions considered well worth emulating.

The global crisis, having taken a heavy economic toll on most nations, undermined the conviction that democracy and economic development must necessarily go hand in hand; it might also have shaken confidence in democracy itself. The project assumes that such developments could potentially give rise to a new global arrangement in which another model, or models, for a political system might emerge as preferable to the Western liberal democratic type, notably the Chinese model of authoritarian capitalism.

An established team of researchers comprising social scientists, economists and historians explore the causes of the crisis; compare it with the crash of 1929 and its consequence; link the economy with democracy; analyse competing models of coping with the crisis; consider a possible global re-configuration; and propose ways in which to overcome the crisis by accommodating the diversity of existing value systems based on tradition, religion, ideology or secular humanism, rather than by imposing one particular value system.

[SU Researchers: Pierre du Toit, Stan du Plessis & Philip Mohr]

Project leader(s):
  • Ursula van Beek (Stellenbosch)
STIAS fellow(s):
  • Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski (Polish Academy of Sciences)
  • Ursula Hoffman-Lange (Bamberg)
  • Yilmaz Esmer (Bahcesehir)
  • Dirk Berg-Schlosser (Marburg)
  • Laurence Whitehead (Oxford)
Publication(s):

Ursula J van Beek (editor), Democracy under stress – The global crisis and beyond, Barbara Budrich Publishers (Leverkusen Opladen, 2011); co-publication with SUNMedIA Press (2012).