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The University of Southampton
Centre for Democratic Futures

About us

The Centre for Democratic Futures is a multi-disciplinary team of academics who have developed an international reputation for excellence in the related fields of democratic theory, democratic and non-democratic governance, democratic innovation, citizenship, political analysis, institutional design, public policy and the history of democracy. In these areas, our members have a track record in successful research grant applications, internationally significant publications and impactful public engagement. 

The CDF provides a forum within which its members pool ideas, share information and support each other's research. The broad range of disciplines and skills associated with the CDF have enable it to develop a distinctive, interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of democratic futures.

What is the Centre for Democratic futures?

The aim of the Research Centre for Democratic Futures at the University of Southampton is to harness the power of academic research to future-proof democracy. The Centre’s goal is to identify threats to democracy and investigate strategies that ensure the resilience of democracy.

Why is the Centre for Democratic Futures important?

The future of democracy is in question. Those who aspire to democratic futures are presented with new opportunities and several challenges to how citizens and government understand their relationship with one another.  Political participation has shifted from traditional organisations to take in also new web-based activities. New information and communication technologies (ICT) and social media, both offer to mobilise new constituencies but contain the threat of disseminating fake news, contributing to polarisation and invidious forms of surveillance. Perceived tensions between national sovereignty and membership in international economic and political alliances at regional or global levels have exposed competing visions of political futures. Automation and the extension of the workplace into the private sphere threatens democratic rights won by collective bargaining. Gender, race, age, sexuality and other intersecting identities, social characteristics, and associated inequalities remain predictors of democratic (dis)engagement and inequality.

How will the Centre for Democratic Futures achieve its aims?

Symptoms of the failure of politics to negotiate complexity include declining engagement in traditional institutions of representative democracy (elections and political parties), increasingly professionalised lobbying, rising populism and anti-politics, and declining trust in intergovernmental institutions. Scholarship that has tried to explain the symptoms of this crisis and these challenges has focused either on cross-case comparison of within-country factors or on structural issues of overlapping economies and demoi in a globalised world. And despite institutional innovations aimed at avoiding or coping with democratic deficits, the models of democracy offered have proven unfit for a world of multi-level governance.

Research at the CDF will ask how different dimensional attributes reinforce democracy (or not), what and ideal future democracy will look like and what innovations are necessary and implementable to achieve these ideals. To achieve its ambition the Centre will operate integrated streams of research corresponding to the challenges outlined above supporting research that looks at multiple challenges We will draw on interdisciplinary expertise unique to the to CDF and its partners to investigate the potential for ‘democratic reinforcement’ and ‘democratic bolstering’.

We invite researchers who investigate a range of issues in which we have cross-disciplinary expertise including but not limited to: theoretical and empirical explanations of democratic malaise, the rise of populism and anti-politics, global citizenship and inclusion, structures of international governance, governing global economic integration, multi-level governance, national sovereignty, mass publics and spaces of resistance, democratic institutional design. We aim to produce research and education which provide the answers to democratic failure for a democratic future.

We invite potential collaborators including those working in a wide range of disciplines. A non-exhaustive list includes: Philosophy, History, Health Sciences, Geography, Computer Science, Economics, Sociology, Demography, Education, Psychology, Environmental Sciences, Maritime Science, Modern Languages, Law, Mathematics, Physics, Art and Design, Media and Communication

We want this to be a genuinely participatory interdisciplinary process – we are always asking 1) How do these ideas work for you? 2) What does democracy or democratic futures mean to you and your discipline?

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