For some time, it seemed as if democracy – especially in its market-liberal variant of US-American provenance – is the only game in town. In recent years, however, the marriage of liberal values, capitalism and democratic order has come under considerable stress from a variety of directions. Increasing polarization and decreasing trust in institutions goes hand in hand with an erosion of confidence in the problem-solving capacities of governments and a growing pessimism about economic well-being and social progress, more generally. The promise of the democratizing power of the internet boomeranged as a destructive force in form of fake news and mass disinformation.
At the same time, the disconnect between “the” people and its political representatives became more and more visible, giving rise to new political forces across the political spectrum with the potential of empowering new social groups. These turbulent times are not limited to domestic politics, but also stretch beyond envisaged walls and borders into the realm of international politics: Here, the discontents of globalization and the dismal results of democracy promotion with coercive means after the end of the Cold War contributed to the erosion of American and Western authority on the global stage. Liberal principles and values came under attack from left- and right-wing forces, which contested the traditional bipartisan liberal consensus in the United States but also within the European Union. These developments have opened up room for new geo-strategic maneuvers and dynamics in a multipolar world. All in all, it seems as if we face a corrosion of the democratic order!
The 2019 Annual Meeting of the Political Science Section of the German Association for American Studies (GAAS) aims to address these and other challenges to the democratic order with a focus on the U.S. as well as in a comparative perspective.