Mean cities: the dark side of urban citizenship

Stadtluft macht frei, or city air makes you free, was a proverb in the Middle Ages. It referred to a legal principle according to which runaway serfs were to become free after living one year in a city. Today, many scholars suggest that urban citizenship still has powerful emancipatory effects.

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Why Referendums in Ireland Work Better than in the UK

Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown has recommended the Irish innovation of the citizens’ assembly to inform and guide public opinion. Theresa May, too, included a glancing reference to the notion in her recent House of Commons speech. They are mistaken, though, if they believe that this formula has much to offer in the UK.

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Das gescheiterte Referendum zum Friedensvertrag in Kolumbien taugt nicht zur Delegitimierung von Volksabstimmungen

Brexit in UK, Ukraine-Abkommen in den Niederlanden, Flüchtlinge in Ungarn: Volksabstimmungen scheinen in letzter Zeit nichts als schlechte Nachrichten zu produzieren. Jetzt kommt das gescheiterte Friedens-Referendum in Kolumbien dazu. Ist das ein Grund, Volksabstimmungen generell zu misstrauen? Nicht, wenn man genauer hinschaut.

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Das Brexit-Referendum: Sieg für die Demokratie?

War das Referendum doch zumindest ein Sieg für die Demokratie? Im Ergebnis wohl nicht. Demokratietheoretisch darf die Kritik freilich nicht beim Ergebnis, sondern bei der Entscheidung für das Referendum ansetzen: War die Austrittsfrage eine für ein Referendum geeignete Frage, oder hätte diese dem Parlament vorbehalten sein müssen? Vieles spricht hier für Letzteres.

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Calling Europe into Question: the British and the Greek referenda

On this day last year, Greeks woke up facing a referendum result that very few had expected. Almost a year later, on the 24th of June 2016, British and other Europeans woke up overwhelmingly surprised by the ‘Leave’ vote. Despite their significant differences, the Greek and the British referenda have some important things in common. Reading them together might have something to teach us about referenda on the EU—especially now that more people seem to be asking for one in their own country.

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Populists chairing the European Commission and Parliament

No, the title of this post does not refer to a dystopia to come after the next European elections in 2019. It refers to the two presidents of today – Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz. Now why can they be seen as populists in some plausible way? In my view, this is because of the way in which they see politics and the role of the “people” in it.

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Sovereign and misinformed: Brexit as an exercise in democracy?

Rather than criticising the Brexit referendum as a decision-making tool because ‘the people’ don’t have the necessary expertise to take decisions of this magnitude, we should question the conditions in which many UK voters were called to express their opinion. They, like many all over the world, have seen the progressive hollowing-out of those basic rights that make voting the expression of the right to individual and collective self-rule in the first place.

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