Special Reports / What’s that thing called democracy?

What’s that thing called democracy?

Kultura Liberalna · 27 December 2011

Dear Readers,

Year 2011 was a year of protests organized in the name of “people’s power”. Demonstrations sweeping through North Africa, Europe, the United States, and at the end of the year Russia, dominated the media. On “Foreign Policy’s” annual list of top 100 Global Thinkers the first 10 places were awarded to “Arab revolutionaries” and „TIME” magazine recognized “The Protester” as the “Person of the Year”. In other media it was often claimed that 2011 brought the biggest advance of democracy since 1989. Although the protests were held in extremely diverse places they were all considered to be closely interrelated.

But have we really just experienced the next “wave of democratization”? If so, what has it left ashore and what has it taken with it? Should democratic activists congratulate themselves on the events of the past 12 months?

In today’s “Liberal Culture” we pose these questions to people daily preoccupied with the theory and practice of democratization. The issue consists of three interviews and a summarizing commentary. In the first interview Susan Buck-Morss, professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, presents her views on the condition of contemporary capitalism, its relationship to democracy and the possibilities of change created by the protests known as Occupy Wall Street movement. Our second interviewee is a Serbian democracy activist, Srdja Popovic. Over the past 15 years, Popovic was involved in preparing numerous – though not always successful – non-violent democratic protests in countries all over the world. In our discussion he speaks, among others, on how to plan a revolution and explains how he ended up on the “Foreign Policy’s” list as “an Arab revolutionary”. In the last conversation we talk to Carl Gershman, a longtime president of the National Endowment for Democracy, one of the most important democracy promoting institutions, annually spending tens of millions of dollars on this purpose. From the interview we learn how is this money spent, who donates it and what results it brings. A commentary by “Liberal Culture’s” contributor Joanna Kusiak summarizes some of the issues discussed and raises an extremely important question – How to end the revolutions started in 2011?

Enjoy the reading!

Editorial Team


Concept: Łukasz Pawłowski

Cooperation: Joanna Kusiak, Ewa Serzysko

Illustrator: Wojciech Tubaja