Call for Papers and Panels: SG Political Concepts - ECPR Section for General Conference 2023

Section Title: “Debating democracy in/and Europe”

Section Chair: Claudia Wiesner (Fulda)

Section Co-Chair: Claudia Landwehr (Mainz)

Section Topic:

Within academia as much as in political practice, democracy remains a contested concept. Its contestation concerns a number of different aspects: On one hand, while most democratic theorists, politicians and citizens endorse and claim to promote democracy, they hold different ideas about what democratic rule implies and requires. On the other hand, recent approaches in the social sciences that focus e.g. on political movements, and activists in these movements themselves, are critical of established concepts of representative democracy that they criticize as e.g. being male- or Western-dominated. Moreover, citizens hold different views of how to conceptualize and judge representative democracy, and these differences are influenced by their national backgrounds and the fact of whether they regard the national level or the EU as a polity. Finally, besides such discussions inside Western and European states, democracy both as a concept and in the shape of the liberal western democracy is challenged by autocratic politicians and states. The War against Ukraine has repeatedly been framed as a war between an autocracy and the liberal Western European democracy. In sum, democracy as a concept is widely contested and debated today. Understanding the plurality of conceptions of democracy voiced in academic and public discourses and held by political actors thus is an essential task for political scientists and scholars of democracy and concepts.


Against this backdrop, it is the goal of the section to bring together scholars and panels that analyse and discuss how democracy is (to be) debated and conceptualized today, inside and outside Europe. Panels in this section will address conceptions of democracy in light of the foci of the current academic debate sketched above, with regard to contemporary challenges such as populism, polarization and autocratization, and regarding democracy and democratization beyond the nation state, with a particular emphasis on the European Union. Panels and papers are invited to discuss questions such as:

  • Which distinct conceptions of democracy can we identify in academia, public discourses and among political elites?
  • How do these relate the concept of democracy to other significant concepts like representation, participation, autonomy, freedom, or power?
  • How is democracy conceptualized and debated in various for a and by different actors?
  • What concepts of democracy do citizens use or construct, and do citizen conceptions of democracy systematically diverge from those of political elites?
  • To what extent are (some) democratic societies losing a shared understanding of democracy?
  • Can and will the resulting loss of procedural consensus destabilize democratic regimes?
  • What can political science and democratic theory contribute to public discourses about democracy, its challenges, and potential reforms?
  • How is democracy conceptualized in the framework of the European Union and its multilevel system – both by citizens and elites?

Please submit your panel and paper proposals via your My ECPR account here

Deadline for submission: February 28th!