The new One World Trade Center building photographed from the 9/11 Memorial © gigi_nyc | Flickr
Arts & DesignEssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Can Architecture be Democratic?

The tension between The People and their places

Can architecture be democratic? Most people would readily agree that the built environment is bound to be political. Yet in the popular imagination the combination of “architecture” and “politics” tends to conjure up distinctly undemocratic figures: totalitarian leaders designing monumental edifices and avenues for eternity. And if authoritarians fancy themselves as architects, so a certain logic goes, architects often act like authoritarians: at best they might create something for the people, but not anything meaningfully seen as of the people and certainly not by the people. And yet there are ways of judging architecture and space to be more or less democratic — and, to some extent, practical strategies to render architecture (and also urban planning) democratic. These are bound to become ever more important in the twenty-first century, as our age is one of unprecedented urbanization and hence new planning and building challenges around the globe. …

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Rally of supporters of the National Democratic Party of Germany carrying its flag © Terwala | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

How to Deal with Extremists? Post European Election Reflections

Considering the dilemmas of dealing with parties suspected of wanting to undermine core elements of liberal democracy

In the wake of this past spring’s European elections, in which far-right parties did very well, an old conundrum for liberal democrats is posed with renewed urgency: how to deal with extremists? Should one talk with them? Or should one only talk about them? Or not even that — in other words, should they just be ignored, or perhaps be contained with a cordon sanitaire that all other political parties agree on? The answer cannot be given in a vacuum — much depends on the nature of the party in question and on the political system in which it operates. Intellectuals and scholars who pretend that political philosophy or history provide easy answers are likely to do more harm than good here. …

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