Convening 20 May 2019 Venice (Italy)
Sources of Democracy: Citizenship, Social Cohesion and Ethical Values

Venice Seminars May 23rd-25th, 2019 | Giorgio Cini Foundation, Mominoun Foundation and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

VENUE: Giorgio Cini Foundation, Island of San Giorgio

Venice Summer School: May 20th-25th, 2019 

VENUE: Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

The liberal democratic systems that rose to preeminence in the postwar international order are uniformly enveloped in crises of doubt and self-confidence. Under pressure from extremist and nationalist movements, political institutions reveal unseen weaknesses that provoke widespread fears of democratic decline. The products and purveyors of 19th and 20th century trends towards more liberalism and more democracy seem themselves to be insufficiently grounded in liberal values.

The lack of resilience and social cohesion to resist the illiberal trend finds resonance in the old paradox of philosopher Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde: “The liberal state lives on premises that it cannot itself guarantee […] without renouncing its liberalism.” The surprising rise of nationalism, populism, illiberal extremism and the profound crisis of Western democracy all confirm the need to examine these “premises”, i.e. the moral, cultural and educational resources that are taken for granted. The questions that face societies seeking to cultivate and reproduce them are timeless and recurrent: Has individualism endangered communitarian and religious allegiances as much as it has done for the relative importance of national boundaries? Has it undermined the social capital and civic fabric that ground societies? Or is the illiberal trend a temporary regression, a momentary lapse in the long and winding history of democratic development? What insight do we gain on current political illiberal trends from other regional contexts that have been more reluctant to sacrifice communitarian values (South America, Arab and Muslim world, Asia)?

The Venice seminars will analyze these vital questions in Western and non-Western contexts, bringing a comparative approach to examine the attractive power of democracy on a global scale.


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