Our society is facing great challenges within a number of different fields. Meeting these societal challenges with knowledge in creative environments that integrate education, research, and collaboration – knowledge environments – is something that permeates Linnaeus University’s vision and work.
Seven of the university’s knowledge environments have been appointed Linnaeus Knowledge Environment. These focus on the fields of education, materials, democracy, water, digitalisation, environment, and health. They all work interdisciplinary and link together subjects, departments, and faculties in order to get a broad take on the societal challenges within each field.
Societal challenge: A questioned democracy
Democracy is a common foundation for many countries. However, its ability to handle problems in society and welfare challenges is being increasingly questioned. More and more countries are moving in an undemocratic direction. Authoritarian values and parties are gaining ground. Alternative news outlets are challenging traditional journalism. Technology makes it easy to spread fake news.
School has one of the most important roles in society to counteract this trend. The work with democracy and values in school must be prioritised to give pupils the democratic values and skills needed to live in and take part in Swedish society.
The vision for the knowledge environment A questioned democracy is to contribute with ideas, meeting places, and new knowledge to meet the challenges the Swedish democracy is facing today, with the aim to make democratic values more well-anchored among the citizens.
Learn more about our research, courses and programmes, and collaboration below.
More about the societal challenge
Democracy must be conquered every day. This is more urgent today than in a very long time. For decades, democracy has been a common foundation for politics, participation, and public dialogue in many of the world’s countries. However, in the last few years, the ability of democracy to handle societal problems and welfare challenges has been increasingly questioned, both in the public debate and in the academic world. More and more countries are moving in an undemocratic direction and authoritarian parties and values are gaining ground. Around the world, more and more politicians and citizens are questioning the independence and impartiality of traditional media. Research shows that the general trust between citizens is diminishing. At the same time, the tone in the public debate is becoming increasingly harsh.
It is becoming increasingly important to defend the democratic dialogue in a time when alternative news outlets are challenging traditional quality journalism. Rapid technology development has made it possible for actors with only small resources to spread large quantities of fake news with the aim to manipulate public opinion. On the international level, several authoritarian regimes act to affect and undermine trust in democratic processes in established democracies.
Media and civil society
Democracy requires a free and independent media that can scrutinize those in power, work as a forum for public opinion, and mediate the knowledge necessary for the political participation of the citizens. Today, there is an increasing global trend of journalists being harassed and threatened.
Increasing economic, social, and cultural divides can also lead to democracy being questioned, and groups who feel that they have been sidelined can be radicalised by anti-democratic forces. For instance, civil society has a very important role to play in counteracting alienation. One of the largest threats to the democratic society is that people’s commitment and trust is being hollowed out.
School is one of the most important actors in society when it comes to counteracting the societal trend described above. The work with democracy and values in school must be prioritised to give pupils the democratic values and skills needed to live in and take part in Swedish society.
- Linnaeus University guards democracy every day – becomes first university to sign the Swedish Government’s democracy declaration News
- First deputy speaker of the Swedish Parliament debated democracy issues News
- SEK nine million from Crafoordska stiftelsen to Linnaeus University News
- Sweden strengthens its commitment to freedom of speech and media development in UNESCO News
The knowledge environment A questioned democracy conducts extensive research within all aspects of the societal challenge, from three different central perspectives: representation, media, and citizen.
- Representation: Democratic values as a common foundation for politics, participation and trust among citizens.
- Media: The conditions for public dialogue and the reporting of political news.
- Citizen perspective: Alienation and economic vulnerability as obstacles to inclusion in society and participation in the democracy.
The representation perspective
Based on the representation perspective, the environment conducts research on…
- the ability of party politics to represent the citizens,
- citizens’ and political leaders’ questioning of individuals’ and minorities’ rights for the benefit of populist, authoritarian, and nationalistic values,
- citizens’, in particular young people’s, diminishing general trust and changes to civil society, and
- corruption and abuse of power in the public sector.
Based on the media perspective, the environment conducts research on media’s possibility to act as the fourth estate. We study the connection between a questioned democracy and challenges for free and independent journalism by highlighting…
- threats, hate and harassment that hamper journalists’ possibilities to give an account of society,
- the retreat of the daily press from the local democracy,
- alternative news outlets that challenge established mass media, in particular among young people, and
- manipulation of opinion-forming, rumour-milling, mobilisation of authoritarian forces, and threats towards journalists and vulnerable groups from troll factories, fake accounts, and bots on social media.
Based on the citizenship perspective, the environment conducts research on…
- the ability and problems of civil society to mobilise citizens’ participation in politics and public dialogue,
- their societal inclusion in different contexts of vulnerability, and
- opportunities and risks with civil society developing parallel structures that replace authorities and other parts of the public sector, in particular in areas where many live in alienation.
Computational Social Sciences The research in the area Computational Social Sciences within Linnaeus University Centre for Data Intensive Sciences and Applications (DISA) is about producing and…
Governance, Ethics, and Corruption (GEC) - Studying the bright side AND the dark side of public governance. The issues that we study broadly concern governance, challenges to sustainable democratic…
Platform Migration A strategic platform for migration and integration research at Linnaeus University will contribute to collaboration and increased knowledge exchange. Within the platform,…
Social work and migration In the research and teaching environment Social work and migration participants study and discuss social work in times of migration. What challenges and opportunities does…
Studies in Curriculum, Teaching and Evaluation (SITE) The Linnaeus-SITE research group incorporates longstanding and inter-related strands of inquiry within the field Pedagogy and Educational Science.
Varieties of Political Representation The principal purpose of the research environment Varieties of Political Representation (VPR) is to be a forum for research on the study of political…
The researchers that take part in A questioned democracy are active teachers who integrate their research in their teaching at Linnaeus University. On all academic levels, the teachers from the knowledge environment have developed new and revised established courses that problematise a questioned democracy. In connection to our students’ internships we collaborate with authorities and companies.
- Swedish Public Employment Service
- Demokrati, journalistik och medier (DJM)
- Institutet för lokal och regional demokrati (ID)
- County Administrative Board of Kronoberg
- Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB)
- Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF)
- Region Kronoberg
- Swedish Media Publishers’ Association (TU)
- Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKR)
- Växjö municipality
- Mats Sjölin, professor of political science, Department of Political Science
- Kersti Forsberg, operational manager, Fojo Media Institute
- Sofie Tornhill, senior lecturer, Department of Social Studies
- Tobias Bromander, senior lecturer, Department of Pedagogy and Learning
- Åsa Söderqvist Forkby, senior lecture, Department of Social Work