The Paradox of Democracy
Ahead of the conference, we spoke to Dr. Christian Welzel, professor at the HSE LCSR in St Petersburg, and asked him about both the conference and his own work and goals.
— What's new about the agenda of the annual conference in 2013? What has changed over the three years since the first conference?
— These days we try to cover more topics within the broader range of cultural change. For instance, the decline of inter-state violence and the relationship between genetic diversity and value change are new topics at the cutting edge of social research and will be included this year.
— Could you introduce some of participants of the conference. What was the main reason for inviting these specialists?
We have far too many participants for me to provide an exhaustive overview of their achievements. However, the general rationale was to have a mixture of established international scholars to give keynote lectures and young researchers who will be presenting their ongoing projects in workshops.
— You've been specializing in democracy and are going to present your research on the critical role of emancipative values in a country's democratic performance at the conference. What are the major findings of your research?
— There are many countries in the world where we can observe the paradox that even though the overwhelming majority of the population say that they desire democracy, the regime by which people are governed is clearly undemocratic or lacks essential democratic qualities. Interestingly, wherever this paradox exists, people's democratic desires lack a proper understanding of democracy. Lack of this understanding in turn reflects a weakness of emancipative values.
— What are your personal research plans for the 2013-2014 academic year?
— I plan to continue working on resolving the puzzle that a strong desire for democracy often goes hand in hand together with a lack of understanding of what democracy is. I also want to focus on analyzing data from the most recent World Values Survey in Germany. This is the only country where we combined the survey with a cooperation game, and this will allow us to explore the relationship between values and behavior. If the results look useful, this might be a pilot study for other countries.
— How do you find working for Laboratory for Comparative Social Research in the HSE St Petersburg?
— Put simply, working for the LCSR is exciting! The faculty and young researchers all are highly committed and competent. It is a privilege to work with them.