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Is today’s digital society democratic or authoritarian?

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18.09.2019

Half a century ago, future researcher Alvin Toffler wrote in his book The Future Shock that a time would come when technological progress would be so rapid that even elites would no longer be able to comprehend and explain it. Who could deny that we have long since arrived at this point?

New industries are challenging old ones, social models and role models are being questioned. This creates an uneasiness that goes hand in hand with the question of whether, in the future, we will still be able to live the way we are used to. This phenomenon applies equally to democratic and non-democratic societies — and the disruptions are equally noticeable in both. What does this change mean for governance, in democratic or non-democratic societies? Does this shift promote one form of rule or another?

Alexander Görlach is a senior research associate at the Institute on Religion and International Studies at the University of Cambridge

Political systems are networks

Let us take these two examples: the dispute over the new "Stuttgart 21" railway station in the state capital of Baden-Württemberg on the one hand, and the protests in Hong Kong on the other. In earlier times, systems were strictly hierarchical. The state, the church, the party, the trade union, the........

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