Journal of International Affairs: The Democracy Issue

 The Journal of International Affairs shares the news about their recently released publication featuring a Nobel Laureate.

Writing in the 1958 edition of Columbia University’s Journal of International Affairs, D.M. Bouloukos called for a re-evaluation and re-examination of democracy “...because of a long deep moral, political, and social crisis within the West.” The worst enemy of democracy, he claimed, is pseudo-democracy, a shallow form that requires a re-evaluation of “people, methods, and institutions” in order for true democracy to survive.

Sixty years later, after the historic political events in 2016 and 2017, the Journal’s 71st edition -- which was released earlier this month -- reflects on the current state of democracy and democracies around the world. From Brexit and Trump, to Mugabe and the global women’s marches, the issue brings together a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, world-renowned experts, high-level political figures, to critically examine the concept of democracy in the modern era. It features today’s trending topics: big data, disinformation, and the transformation of digital media platforms into political governance systems.

Venkat Motupalli, Chief Information Officer of the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services argues that the pace at which democratic organisations and institutions respond to technological change must improve in an environment in which citizens are both more empowered and more vulnerable than ever before. SIPA Professor Anya Schiffrin questions whether the internet has in fact improved democracy. It was only a mere seven years ago that pundits were extolling the idea of digital technology and social media as a force for political change, instrumental in bringing down authoritarian regimes during the Arab Spring. Yet by 2017, events have forced the world to question the value and place of social media in our democracies.

The Democracy Issue also examines the democratic experiences of specific countries and regions. In an interview on democracy in Europe, Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, reflects on the problematic nature of referendums: the most literal expression of democracy, yet often decided by the short-term whims of the people. Benjamin Goldfrank, Associate Professor at Seton Hall University, discusses how Latin America’s experimentation with participatory institutions has left much to be desired. Finally, Colombian president and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Juan Manuel Santos, offers his perspective on the peace process with the FARC, a lesson in dedication and practicality. In his words, “it is always more popular and more emotionally satisfying to pander to the extremes than to promote thoughtful, pragmatic centrist positions.”

SIPA students will be able to access and read the complete issue on JSTOR within the coming months. Alternatively, anyone can subscribe or purchase a copy of the issue here.