Defending Politics: Why democracy matters

29th Mar 2012; 13:00

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RSA Thursday

If the twentieth century witnessed the triumph of democracy then something appears to have gone seriously wrong. Citizens around the world have become distrustful of politicians, sceptical about democratic institutions, and disillusioned about the capacity of democratic politics to resolve pressing social concerns.

Professor of Politics at the University of Sheffield, Matthew Flinders, aims to cultivate a shift from the bland and fatalistic 'politics of pessimism' that appears to dominate public life towards a more buoyant and engaged 'politics of optimism'.

If more and more people are disappointed with what modern democratic politics delivers, then is it possible that the fault lies with those who demand too much, fail to acknowledge the essence of democratic engagement and ignore the complexities of governing in the twentieth century rather than with democratic politics itself?

Flinders visits the RSA to provide an honest account of why democratic politics matters and why we need to reject the arguments of those who would turn their backs on 'mere politics' in favour of more authoritarian, populist or technocratic forms of governing. In rejecting fashionable fears about the 'end of politics' and daring to suggest that the public, the media, pressure groups, academics and politicians are all part of the problem as well as part of the cure, he provides a an optimistic view of the achievements and future potential of democratic politics.

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