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10.03.2019 14:39 Alter: 16 days


Call for Papers

Theme: Aftershocks
Subtitle: Globalism and the Future of Democracy
Type: 16th ISSEI Conference
Institution: International Society for the Study of European Ideas (ISSEI)
  University of Zaragoza
Location: Zaragoza (Spain)
Date: 2.–5.7.2019
Deadline: 31.3.2019

The long history of democracy as a political concept is today
intensely scrutinized and much debated. Some say that as a form of
government, democracy, like all political systems, follows cycles: it
comes into being, grows, and then declines; some say it is a uniquely
European idea, while others strongly contend it is not unique to
Europe at all, but had been “developing in the Middle East, India,
and China before classical Athens” (Paul Cartledge, Democracy: A
Life, OUP, 2016).

Democracy, as Raymond Williams wrote in the mid-1970s, “is a very old
word but its meanings have always been complex.” He briefly describes
its ambiguous meanings from its ancient Greek use to its first
appearance in English in the 16th century and from then on to its
modern meanings from the French Revolution to the mid- 20th century.
While in the West we have grown used to taking it for granted as the
only good and fair form of government, we are oblivious to its
primarily negative meanings of ‘mob rule’ and ‘popular power’ up
until the late 19th century. That democracy then gained wider
acceptance by “a majority of political parties and tendencies,”
Williams writes, “is the most striking historical fact.”

While at the beginning of the 20th century there were less than
twenty states that could be defined as democracies, today most
countries define themselves as such (120 out of 192 UN member states
in 2000), even though their political realities are so radically
different that the very term seems questionable. Democracy is not
only hard to define but hard to sustain in practice. Economic and
social crises, such as the 2008 financial crisis, international
terrorism, mass immigration and unemployment, and major geopolitical
shifts, challenge the democratic ideals of the rule of law and human
rights, the multi-party system and open and free elections,
consensual decision-making and the spirit of inclusion and tolerance
— all of which are predicated, at least in the Western social
democratic model, on a stable and politically-engaged civic society.

As an ‘in-between’ form of governance that seeks to avoid extremism,
whether of tyranny or of anarchy, democracy must steer a middle path
that requires enormous resources of deliberation, mediation, literary
and artistic expression and above all an attentive and responsive
public. In recent years, it is precisely these processes —
deliberation, mediation, and public trust — that have been defied by
a rising tide of populist-nationalist movements. These movements have
gained wide public support not only by mobilizing reactions to the
multiple crises besetting the EU, the USA and the world at large but
also by the ‘rhetorical/verbal extremism’ flowing from the new social
networks, the political implications of which cannot as yet be
determined. Along with Brexit and the US elections this surge of
popular grievance calls for new ways of seeing and thinking about the
causes, nature, unintended consequences and bitter human costs of the
socio-political changes the world is undergoing. It calls for a a new
vocabulary, one that is more flexible and less prescriptive about the
language of the formal public sphere, a language that can grasp and
convey what is at stake in the crises humanity faces, from the
growing generational gap, the democratic deficit, the volatility of
the public mood, to the dangers to our planet and our survival as a
species—for are these not symptoms of a failure of communication, of
education, of public and academic discourse to defend fundamental
human values and ideals?

Globalism is generally said to be the immediate cause of these
multiple crises. But what more precisely is meant by ‘globalism’ and
can its effects, good and bad, be more precisely determined? In
exposing deep economic, social, cultural and religious fault-lines
within nation-states and among them — globalism holds up a mirror to
our failure to understand our own blind spots: our failure to admit
that our political and theoretical certainties have allowed, have not
prevented, and perhaps have aided and abetted the course of events
leading to the current impasse.

Our global crises are a call to look introspectively, with new eyes,
into the ways we do things. We should take a brave, critical look at
our own academic engagements, our philosophies and beliefs, for
nothing short of that can ever lead to a new consciousness of human
possibility. When “The best lack all conviction, while the
worst /  Are full of passionate intensity” (Yeats, “The Second
Coming,” 1919) — there is clearly much that can and should be
discussed and much that can and should be done.


We invite scholars to discuss the dimensions, manifestations, and
problems, both theoretical and pragmatic of “Globalism and the Future
of Democracy” from multiple perspectives: historical, philosophical,
linguistic, cultural, religious, artistic, political, socio-economic
and others.

If you would like to present a paper in one or more of the workshops,
please note the following:

1. Papers should not exceed 3000 words or 10 double-spaced pages,
including the Notes.

2. Abstracts should be submitted directly to a Workshop Chair.
Please check the list of workshops with the contact information of
the Chairs on the Conference Website: If you
are unsure which workshop best suits your proposed paper, please
consult Dr. Edna Rosenthal by sending her your abstract

3. The deadline for submitting abstracts to a Workshop Chair is March
31, 2019.

We very much look forward to seeing you at the University of Zaragoza
in the summer of 2019.

Conference Co-Chairs:

Professor Josè Angel Bergua Amores, Department of Sociology,
University of Zaragoza

Professor Iván Lôpez, Department of Sociology, University of Zaragoza

Dr Edna Rosenthal, The European Legacy/ISSEI

Conference website: