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Varieties of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

Final Activity Report Summary - VARDEM (Varieties of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe)

The project on varieties of democracy in the new member states developed an original and critical contribution to the debate on democracy in a unified Europe, in general, and in the new member states, in particular. The theoretical approach, i.e. the multiple democracies’ approach, which was developed in the project, provided a critical rethinking of the notion of democratic political culture. There was a widespread consensus that democratic regimes needed a supporting culture, but within this political culture was mostly understood in a singular way, that is, as a liberal culture.

The researcher developed an original and critical approach for the study of democracy, building on political and cultural sociology, and proposed the idea of a variety of democratic political cultures instead. The novel approach drew together current debates on democracy in empirical and theoretical social research, which had so far remained almost completely detached. The main assumptions of the approach were the historical and cultural rootedness of democracy and its contested and multi-interpretable nature. Multiple democracies referred in this to a potential variety of ‘ethics’ or ‘orientations’ of democracy that underpinned democratic political cultures and constitutional foundations.

The theoretical approach was supported in the comparative and empirical part of the project, which provided an extensive, comparative study of such democratic ethics as reflected in the constitutional documents and constitutional debates in three new member states, namely Hungary, Poland and Romania, as well as in the political narratives of European democracy as articulated by members of the European Parliament and other political elites of the respective new member states. The latter were based on a substantial number of qualitative interviews, held primarily at the European Parliament, as well as on the analysis of speeches, political debates and political documents.

The project led to the publication of a monograph, which was forthcoming with Routledge Publishers by the time of the project completion, and to various articles in academic journals, such as in ‘Contemporary Politics and Perspectives on European Politics and Societies’ as well as in the cultural on-line journal ‘Lo Squaderno’.