Democracy jeopardised by the euro crisis

Researchers say management of the euro crisis has been outsourced to economists and politics is running along a single track.

Alejandro Lorite Escorihuela and Filipe Pereira da Silva

Alejandro Lorite Escorihuela and Filipe Pereira da Silva

How do you put researchers in the citizens’ shoes and get them involved in political discussions? This was one of the questions Filipe Pereira da Silva and Alejandro Lorite Escorihuela, researchers at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, asked themselves when following the deepening economic crisis and its impacts in their respective home countries, Portugal and Spain.

Small businesses are forced to close down, people sell hand-made goods and opt for recycling, beggars are an increasingly common sight, and youth unemployment soars to 50%. People effectively vanish from early-morning commuter buses.

“In Portugal, the government plans to raise the taxes of pensioners and low-income wage earners in some cases by 170% to 260%,” says Pereira da Silva. “Entrepreneurial aspirations are bulldozed with taxes, and cuts always target those worst off.”

Who takes on responsibility?

As the crisis dragged on, the researchers noticed something strange going on. In the euro countries, power was transferred to an undemocratically elected financial elite, and democracy began to be treated as a speed bump and burden in the crisis. Normal people, those no longer seen on the buses, seemed to have less and less say.

Pereira da Silva, a researcher of philosophy, and Lorite Escorihuela, a researcher of law, arranged a seminar on the topic and invited researchers from ten universities and a wide range of disciplines as speakers. The approach is ideal for the Collegium, which the two describe as the flagship of the University’s interdisciplinarity. “People should participate more, and researchers need to show the way.”

The two acedemics also criticise public debate for sharpening the contrast between southern and northern Europe and lament the disappearance of solidarity. The ambivalent attitude to Brussels is revealed now that an exit from the euro has also been brought up as an alternative.

The Dictatorship of Failure seminar, running from 15 to 16 November 2012, seeks ways to save democracy.

“We want to draw attention to the topic and force researchers to step out of their comfort zone. The economic crisis is not about gigantic debts but about the kind of society we want.”

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies »»

The Dictatorship of Failure seminar »»

Research Database TUHAT: Filipe Pereira da Silva »»

Research Database TUHAT: Alejandro Lorite Escorihuela »»

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Text: Elina Mattila-Niemi
Photo: Ari Aalto
Translation: Language Services, University of Helsinki
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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