Societal challenge: A questioned democracy
What is Linnaeus Knowledge Environment?
Meeting 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 our knowledge environments have been appointed Linnaeus Knowledge Environment. They all work interdisciplinary in order to get a broad take on the societal challenges within each field.
Liberal democracy is a common foundation for many countries. However, its ability to handle problems in society 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 journalism of quality. Technology open ups for democratic interaction, but also makes it easy to spread fake news.
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
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 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. At the same time, the tone in the public debate is becoming increasingly harsh.
A bank of knowledge
A questioning of democracy is often based on criticism of individuals' and minorities' rights in favour of populist attitudes and authoritarian and nationalist values. A Questioned Democracy analyses this process and is a bank of knowledge for those who want to protect the rights of individuals and minorities. In order to identify shortcomings, A Questioned Democracy also analyses the ability of party politics to represent citizens. One example is to study whether the democratic flow from the citizens is stopped by corruption and abuse of power in the public sector.
School has one of the most important roles in society to counteract a trend away from democracy. Therefore, the knowledge environment prioritizes research on the school's work to provide knowledge about democratic values and skills needed to live in and take part in a democratic society.
The democratic dialogue
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 liberal democracies.
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.
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The knowledge environment A Questioned Democracy departs its extensive research from three central perspectives: representation, media, and citizen.
- The representation perspective: Increased polarization and support for authoritarian values; problems of representation, for example antagonism between decision-makers and citizens and corruption.
- The media perspective: The conditions for public dialogue and the reporting of political news.
- The 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.
- Corruption and abuse of power in the public sector.
The media perspective
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.
- 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.
The citizen perspective
Based on the citizen perspective, the environment conducts research on:
- The ability and problems of civil society to mobilise citizens’ participation in politics and public dialogue.
- The school's work with democratic values and civic competence.
- The societal inclusion of citizens in different contexts of vulnerability.
- 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.
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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.
The knowledge environment A questioned democracy has a strong tradition of collaboration with the surrounding society in the form of civil society, authorities and companies.
Magnus Hagevi is manager and Kersti Forsberg assistant manager for A Questioned Democracy.
- Jesper Johansson Associate professor
- +46 470-70 88 38
- Kersti Forsberg Head of department
- +46 480-44 64 13
- +46 73-092 64 13
- Kristoffer Holt Professor
- +46 480-49 70 22
- Magnus Hagevi Professor
- +46 470-70 80 22
- Robert Andersson Associate Professor
- +46 470-70 88 32
- +46 70-618 05 03
- Sofie Tornhill docent
- +46 470-70 89 78
- Staffan Andersson Associate Professor
- +46 470-76 74 20