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On Populism and Other Threats to Democracy

RSA Event


Great Room Auditorium, RSA House

  • Behaviour change
  • Arts and society
  • Philosophy

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The West tends to believe it is on a relentless march towards progress and widespread liberal values, but is democracy more fragile than we think?

While new parties and movements are bringing fresh energy into politics that could benefit democracy, populism has become a defining political trend in the West. Xenophobic and Eurosceptic populist narratives from London to Istanbul are a major threat to liberal democracy and the rule of law, and as the German elections have shown us, far-right movements benefit from these existing uncertainties. As European nations are tested by the rise of populism, how can we respond to these adverse trends?

Drawing on her observations of the rise of populism and duality (a “them” and “us” mentality) in her native Turkey, award-winning novelist, public intellectual and political commentator Elif Shafak offers cautionary advice about the provisional nature of democracy in the west and the rise of populism – and how close we are to slipping back at any point – and asks the question; do writers and other cultural commentators have a responsibility to speak up?


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