Democracy and Economics

“Who bears responsibility for the future of democracy? A multi-perspective series of discussions on the relationship between business and democracy in the era of global change, protectionism and populism.” is a Trialog-Series carried out by The Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” and the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform.

Liberal democracies offer their citizens a level of prosperity unequalled by any other political system. As a form of government, democracy generally enjoys a high degree of public approval, but the way it works on a day-to-day basis is viewed with increasing skepticism.

People’s life worlds are changing due to globalization and digitalization. New prospects and opportunities emerge, but there is also a growing sense of uncertainty. Many citizens ask themselves whether politics, along with business, academic communities and civil society, are capable to find appropriate solutions to the new challenges. The time has come to discuss how business, politics, organized civil society and academia can interact in a way that allows democracy and business to function together on a sustainable basis.

To identify viable solutions the participation of all relevant actor-groups is needed. The Trialogs as a specific method of discussion of the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform reflects a variety of perspectives and opens the possibility to exchange opinions and assess options for action in a confidential atmosphere. They are designed to be hands-on and participatory, linking theoretical and often complex background issues to current, real-life topics and problems.

With our Trialog-Series “Who bears responsibility for the future of democracy?” we would like to kick-off a long-due debate with three one-day events that focus on the role of business in its interactions with politics and organized civil society. We hope the discussions will be open, controversial and rewarding for all participants.

Prof. Dr. Gesine Schwan
Lead: Prof. Dr. Gesine Schwan


[+] I. Trialog: Democracy and the market economy: Strong only in combination?

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In the first Trialog, we aim to identify and discuss the fundamental values that underpin democracy and the market economy. Do these exhibit systematic differences? Do key principles such as equality and profit maximisation stand in opposition to one another? Do market-economic systems really need democracy and civil society? And we will also be looking at the links between business, politics and civil society. What key characteristics and objectives do they share?


[+] II. Trialog: Companies caught between the profit motive and the public interest?

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Society and politics place expectations on the business sector, for example with regard to where companies locate as well as their willingness to pay domestic taxes and to comply with environmental regulations. But are these expectations legitimate and justified? What moral obligations do companies have towards government and society? And how do companies reconcile wider social responsibility with their obligations to employees and shareholders? In the second Trialog, we will take a look at some real-life examples in order to examine the operating framework required by market economic systems and incentives that can encourage companies to take democratic values and objectives into account in their decision-making.

[+] III. Trialog: Everything different in the future?

earth 1149733 1920 150x150 - Democracy and EconomicsThe third Trialog will centre on the consequences, opportunities and risks that democracies, enterprises and societies will face as a result of globalisation and digitalisation. What economic-policy levers do (national) governments have at their disposal in the era of globalisation? What kind of regulatory framework can they – or must they – establish? What will be the social impacts if market-economic principles are applied in ever more areas of life? And what opportunities will online markets and new business models open up for better cooperation – including cooperation that addresses conflict – and closer integration between business, politics, academia and civil society?



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