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Power to the people

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2024 has been dubbed the year of elections, as at least 64 countries – including the UK – are heading for the polls. Tom Sutcliffe and guests explore the state of democracy.

The political philosopher Erica Benner reflects on the tensions in liberal democracy in her book, Adventures in Democracy: The Turbulent World of People Power. From her childhood in post-war Japan, to working in post-communist Poland, and with forays into ancient Greece and Renaissance Erica Benner looks at the role of ordinary citizens in keeping democracy alive.

Democracy in India has a long history with roots in ancient councils of elders, although its modern manifestation began with independence from British rule in 1947. But the anthropologist Alpa Shah raises questions about how far democratic institutions are failing in India, as minority groups - the Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims - are targeted and demonised, in her new book The Incarcerations.

The UK will have a general election this year, and although satisfaction with politics ranks very low in relation to other countries, faith in democracy continues to rise. The research is by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, and its director Bobby Duffy says that while there’s little support for authoritarian forms of government, the idea of Citizen Assemblies are becoming more popular.

Producer: Katy Hickman

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