Topic 2023

Democracy and Society in Europe: Latest Insights from Political Science and Sociology

This edition of the Summer Academy organised by the Department of Political and Social Sciences (SPS) provides a fresh perspective on the major challenges faced by contemporary European societies.

In recent years, wealth and income inequalities have continued to grow. Populist and far-right politicians have become increasingly successful at the ballot box. In several countries, illiberal leaders have subverted democratic institutions and colonised the state. Europe proved resilient in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, not least thanks to the unprecedented mutual support that the EU and its member states provided each other. But governments and their voters had to rise immediately to the challenges of soaring living costs and of uniting against an unprovoked and brutal aggression by Vladimir Putin’s regime in Ukraine.

Mounting pressure both within and beyond Europe’s borders begs the question of the solidity of Europe’s national and transnational democracy. How much can it absorb? Does it face an existential crisis? How can domestic illiberal developments be averted? And what can be done to level inequalities and meet Europeans’ aspirations for a fairer, environmentally sustainable, and inclusive society?

Academic experts from the European University Institute and SPS Summer Academy attendees will attempt to answer these questions together. The SPS Summer Academy’s programme offers its participants a week of highly interactive lectures and workshops. Professor Simon Hix’s lecture will review the mechanisms of popular support for European integration. Professor Filip Kostelka will present an analysis of the current trends in citizen political participation. Professor Waltraud Schelkle will dive into the question of transnational solidarity in Europe. Professor Arnout van der Rijt’s lecture will investigate under what institutional conditions populations exhibit “wisdom of the crowd” and when groupthink leads the herd astray. Finally, Professor Hanspeter Kriesi will deliver a keynote lecture asking if there is a crisis of democracy in Europe and reflecting on the conditions for democracies to survive. Discussion around these topics and others chosen by the attendees will be further pursued in workshops animated by EUI postdoctoral fellows.