After the Cold War ended, liberal democracy was often taken for granted. Now it is in crisis: many citizens distrust representative government and parliamentary politics, the people's parties all over Europe are losing members and votes, twitter and Instagram are crowding out public debates and civility. Across the globe, studies have appeared on the crisis of democracy. Challenging the sense of despair that has informed recent conversations, Till van Rahden suggests that instead of analysing how democracies die, it might prove more useful to explore what keeps them alive. Drawing on the history of the Federal Republic of Germany as a case study to think about democracy as a way of life, it argues that Postwar Germany’s democratic miracle allows us to better understand the cultural and social foundations of democracy in public controversies, in democratic aesthetics, and in everyday life. It contends that no matter how stable a democratic government might appear to be, without democratic forms and spaces that allow for democratic experiences in everyday life it will wither away.
Bio: Till van Rahden is an associate professor at the Université de Montréal since 2006 where he holds the Canada Research Chair in German and European Studies. Before joining the Université de Montréal, he taught at the University of Chicago, the University of Cologne and the University of Bielefeld. Till van Rahden obtained his Ph.D. in History at the University of Bielefeld in 1999 and his M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University in 1993. His research focuses on European history since the Enlightenment. He is particularly interested in the tension between the elusive promise of democratic equality and the recurrent presence of moral conflicts.
He is the author of the award-winning Juden und andere Breslauer published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in 2000. His most recent book is the 2019 monograph Demokratie. Eine gefährdete Lebensform.