Sandra Laugier, professor of philosophy at the University of Paris-I-Panthéon-Sorbonne, author, among others, of Democracy principle and D’anti-democracy (both with Albert Ogien, La Découverte, 2014 and 2017), has just directed, with the constitutionalist Dominique Rousseau, Democracy. A strong idea. Perrine Simon-Nahum, research director at the CNRS, associate professor in the philosophy department of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, publishes political wisdom. Two dense, rich, stimulating books, two often opposing points of view on the present state of democracy, and its future, the confrontation of which sheds light on the issues of one of the crucial debates of our time.
The idea that democracy is in crisis saturates public debate today. Does it seem justified to you?
Perrine Simon Nahum: This is an old observation. I would even say that it is inherent in democracy, insofar as it is the only regime that criticizes itself, but also that it sets itself ideals, which, of course, it cannot fully satisfy. That said, this crisis is now taking on particularly acute forms. We are witnessing a rise in resentment towards it, based on the idea that democracy does not give us what we could legitimately claim.
This stems, in my opinion, from a shift that took place after the Second World War. A confusion has settled in the minds of contemporaries between an institutional regime, political democracy, and a certain state of society, defined by the policies of the welfare state, economic growth, the dream of a development exponential of general well-being. However, as we know, things have turned around: globalization has failed, economic crises have multiplied, and the welfare state, for reasons of budgetary constraints, has run out of steam. This is what is currently causing a questioning of all the institutions, rules and mediations that govern our representative democracies.
Sandra Laugier: It is true that the theme of the democratic crisis, which appears regularly in opinion polls, has become central to public debate, and I will not deny a form of unease, dissatisfaction – I will not use, as for me, the word “resentment”. But is it really a crisis, a crisis, in any case, of the very idea of democracy? Although it is declining in many countries, it remains extremely productive and fruitful. There are movements, occupations of places, new initiatives.
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