Book launch: Democracy Under Siege
An online book launch hosted by the Academy of Ideas - Frank Furedi in conversation with Ella Whelan
Governments across the globe have responded to the Covid-19 crisis with once-inconceivably draconian lockdowns. Justifying their actions on the basis of public protection, politicians have passed laws granting emergency powers to ban protest, shut down workplaces, criminalise ‘mingling’ and condemn dissent as ‘disinformation’.
While some might argue such measures are understandable in times of crisis, both sides of the lockdown debate in the UK agree that the government’s penchant for bringing in last-minute legislation and surprise new regulations poses a problem for democracy. It might be a challenge to hold a public debate during a pandemic, but, for many people, the only political engagement available in the past six months has been shouting at the telly during press conferences.
Democracy has taken a bashing over the past few years. From the fallout from the 2016 EU referendum to panics about fake news, commentators and politicians alike paint those arguing for greater democratic engagement as ‘populists’ and troublemakers. Churchill famously said: ‘No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’ But in recent years, countless books and articles have decried democracy as a downright dangerous means of organising society.
In his new book, Democracy Under Siege: don’t let them know it down!, Professor Frank Furedi argues that fear of democracy has almost always been a feature of Western society. He argues that, today, the moral authority of democracy is being openly questioned in the most explicit way since the 1930s. From Ancient Athens to present-day Brussels, Furedi reveals how democracy has never fully been realised, as elites throughout the centuries sought to temper and limit the influence that the masses had in political life. He concludes that even under the shadow of the pandemic, democracy must not be put on hold. Rather than fearing populist sentiments, an aspiration for solidarity should be cultivated in order to foster a tradition of political participation and debate.
Join Professor Furedi and author and journalist Ella Whelan for this book launch of Democracy Under Siege, available to pre-order via Amazon (UK).