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Real Democracy Now! a podcast

Real Democracy Now! a podcast answers the question: can we do democracy differently? If you're dissatisfied with the current state of democracy but not sure how it could be improved this is the podcast for you. You'll hear from experts and activists as well as everyday people about how democracy works and how it can be improved. Then you get to choose which reforms you think would make the most difference.
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Real Democracy Now! a podcast
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Now displaying: April, 2017
Apr 30, 2017
Today I’m speaking with Professor Mark Warren. Mark is the Harold and Dorrie Merilees Chair in the Study of Democracy in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia where he established the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions.
 
His current research interests fall within the field of democratic theory. He is especially interested in new forms of citizen participation, new forms of democratic representation, the relationship between civil society and democratic governance, and the corruption of democratic relationships. I’m talking with Mark about, amongst other things, his latest paper entitled A Problem-Based Approach to Democratic Theory.
 
In this paper, Mark proposes that we focus on a democratic system which delivers three functions:
  1. empowered inclusion
  2. collective will formation and
  3. the ability to make collective decisions.

He notes that different democratic practices are better at delivering some of these than others and so we should be looking a mix of practices to complement each other and deliver all three functions. He proposes supplementing and layering innovations on top of electoral democracy to create stronger democracies.

Thank you for joining me today. In next week’s episode, I will be talking to Professor Archon Fung about pragmatic democracy and how we might save democracy from ourselves. I hope you’ll join me then.
Apr 23, 2017
Today I’m talking with  Assistant Professor Jean-Paul Gagnon from the University of Canberra. Jean-Paul is a philosopher of democracy specialising in democratic theory.
 
Jean-Paul's research into democracy has three areas of focus. The first, which I am talking with him about today, is an ongoing empirical effort to catalogue democracy’s adjectives and to inquire about what knowing these adjectives may come to mean or be used for. The second is to continue contributing to the theory of non-human democracy by trying to draw lessons for human democracies from the practices of non-human others. The third is to contribute to globalising the history of democracy from a democratic theory perspective. 
 
In later seasons of the podcast, I’ll be looking more closely at different adjectives and democracy, in particular, those adjectives which aim to describe or prescribe what might be considered better or improved forms of democracy. 
 
In the meantime Season 2 is focused on representative democracy and next week I speak to Professor Mark Warren about his work developing an alternative to different models of democracy. Mark has developed a concept of ‘problem-based democracy’ where his focus is on the basic functions a democracy needs to fulfil. He sees this approach as a way to ‘expand our democratic imagination.’ I hope you’ll join me then.
Apr 17, 2017
I ask all of my guests two questions: 
  1. what for them is the essence of a real democracy? and 
  2. if they could change one thing about our system of democracy what would it be?
In episode 1.9 we heard from a number of the guests I interviewed in Season 1 (about deliberative mini-publics) on their view of the essence of a real democracy. Today we hear from guests from Season 1 and 2 on the one change they would make to our system of democracy. 
 
I’ve found the answers people have given to this question fascinating. Sometimes people want changes that directly relate to their area of interest and other things they identify an important change in a completely different part of our democratic system. 
 
In this episode, we hear from
  • Adam Cronkright from Democracy in Practice. I interviewed Adam in episode 1.12 about the work of Democracy in Practice in schools in Bolivia.
  • Associate Professor Caroline Lee. Caroline was part of episode 1.19 where we considered different critiques of deliberative mini-publics.
  • Associate Professor Daniel Pemstein was part of episode 2.3 about his work on the Varieties of Democracy Project and the Unified Democracy Scores.
  • Professor Carson was my first guest in episode 1.1 where she explained the basics about deliberative mini-publics.
  • Professor Graham Smith who has been part of a couple of episodes now - episode 1.8 where he talked about the UK Citizens’ Assemblies and episode1.18 where he outlined his approach to evaluating deliberative mini-publics.
  • Professor Cristina La Font was also part of episode 1.19 where she explained her critique about some uses of deliberative mini-publics.
  • Professor Paul Cartledge was our first guest in Season 2 where he took us through a potted history of Ancient Greek democracy. and
  • Associate Professor Genevieve Fuji Johnson was one of the guests on episode 1.19 critiquing deliberative mini-publics.
In next week’s episode, I speak with Jean-Paul Gagnon about his work on ‘democracy with adjectives’. So far Jean-Paul has identified over 1400 adjectives used to describe democracy. He also tells us about a virtual ‘city of democracy’ he is developing based on this work. I hope you’ll join me then.
Apr 10, 2017
Welcome to episode 4 of Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! A podcast. Today’s episode is about non-Western democracy. I’d like to thank David Schecter for bringing this area of democratic thinking and practice to my attention and for introducing me to my two guests: Associate Professor Benjamin Isakhan and PhD scholar Zelalem Sirna from Ethiopia. Both guests highlight the Eurocentric nature of much of the discourse on democracy and introduce us to some non-western examples of democratic practice.
 
Benjamin Isakhan is Associate Professor of Politics and Policy Studies and Founding Director of POLIS, a research network for Politics and International Relations in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization at Deakin University, Australia. He is also Adjunct Senior Research Associate, in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa and an Associate of the Sydney Democracy Network at the University of Sydney, Australia. Ben is the author of Democracy in Iraq: History, Politics, Discourse (Routledge, 2012 HB, 2016 PB) and the editor of 6 books  including The Secret History of Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011 HB, 2012 PB – translated into Japanese 2012, and Arabic 2014), and The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy: From Pre-History to Future Possibilities (Edinburgh University Press & Oxford University Press, 2012 HB, 2015 PB). He is a leading expert and regular commentator on Middle Eastern Politics, Democracy and Democratization across the Middle East, and Heritage Destruction in the Middle East. 
 
Zelalem Sirna is a PhD scholar at the University of Coimbra in Portugal in the programme of Democracy in 21sy Century.  He earned his LL.B degree in law from the Haramaya University Ethiopia and his MPhil in Indigenous Studies from University of Tromso, Norway.  For his Masters, he undertook a comparative study of Gadaa, the traditional system of governance in Ethiopia and liberal democracy. For his Ph, he is looking at deliberative democracy, deliberative systems and the Gadaa system. As a sociology-legal researcher, is main works are focused on normative pluralism and the challenges it poses in 21st century. 
 
The next episode will consider what my guests think is the one change they would like to see in our system of democracy. I ask all of my guests the same two questions:
  1. what for you is the essence of a real democracy and
  2. if you could change one thing about our current system of democracy what would it be.

I’d love to hear your answers to these two questions and include your perspectives in future episodes. You can send your perspectives to me by email to essence@realdemocracynow.com.au or via Twitter or Facebook. 

Apr 2, 2017
Thank you for joining me in the third episode of Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! A podcast. Season 2 is looking at representative democracy and today I am talking with three academics who take different approaches to evaluating representative democracy. These three approaches are by no means the only ones, in fact there are many indexes and evaluation frameworks in existence. Which is why Dan Pemstein with his colleagues Stephen Meserve and James Melton created the United Democracy Scores to integrate a number of these into one measure. 
 
First up, I speak to Professor Leonardo Morlino who is a professor of political science and director of the Research Center on Democracies and Democratizations at LUISS, Rome. Prof. Morlino is a leading specialist in comparative politics with expertise on Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece), Eastern Europe, and the phenomenon of democratization. He is the author of several books and more than 200 journal essays and book chapters published in English, French, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Chinese, Mongolian, and Japanese. In 2015 -16 he has been conducting research on how the economic crisis affected South European democracies and on the economic and fiscal choices of democracies in the same area within an EU Horizon 2020 grant. 

Professor Morlino talks to us about the analytical tool he has developed to allow comparison of democracies.

Next, I talk with Professor Wolfgang Merkel who is the Director of the Research Unit: Democracy and Democratization at the WZB Social Science Research Centre Berlin, as well as heading up the Centre for Global Constitutionalism and a number of other projects. He has written widely on democracy, democratisation, social democracy and democracy & capitalism to name but a few in academic and non-academic publications. Professor Merkel is a co-project leader of the Democracy Barometer. This project developed an instrument to assess the quality of democracy in 30 established democracies and is the focus of my discussion with Professor Merkel today.
 
Finally, I spoke with Daniel Pemstein. Dan is an assistant professor of political science at North Dakota State University. He is a methodologist who specialises in measurement and builds statistical tools to answer substantive questions in comparative legislative studies and political economy. He is involved in a number of statistical projects, including two I’ll be talking to him about today: the Varieties of Democracy Project and the Unified Democracy Scores
 
Thanks for joining me today. We’ll be hearing from Professors Morlino and Merkel again later in Season 2 when we look at the challenges facing democracy and the relationship between democracy and capitalism. Next week’s episode covers a topic mentioned today, that is ‘non-Western democracy’. I’ll be speaking to Associate Professor Benjamin Isakhan about democracy in the Middle East and Zelalem Sirna about Ethiopian democracy. I hope you’ll join me then. 
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