RESEARCH AT SYDNEY DEMOCRACY NETWORK
The working life of SDN is guided by an ethos of experiment: the belief that the subject of democracy requires bold and creative thinking, that clinging to the tried, tested and true is not a viable option because the democratic imagination is failing in its efforts to name, explain and engage with a wide range of new global realities. SDN welcomes ‘thinking outside the box’.
It supports novel approaches that can change our perceptions of democracy, alter our sense of research priorities and methods and generally improve the capacity of scholars to communicate with each other, and with citizens and representatives, about matters of pressing importance to the present and future of democracy.
Research at SDN adopts an expansive view of democracy as a whole way of life, as more than just as a mode of electioneering or government. Its work emphasises the need for context-sensitive, evidence-based analyses of the languages, institutions and actors that comprise any experiment with democracy. Priority is given to the precept that democratic realities are always infused with ideals, so that normative accounts of democracy are not a theoretical distraction, but a vital component of the study of democracy.
SDN’s work also encourages a strong sense of historical awareness, not just because in matters of democracy ignorance of the past inevitably spawns misunderstandings of the present, but also because democracy is a uniquely time-sensitive political form that sharpens actors’ shared sense of the contingency of power relations.
Finally, the work of SDN is motivated by dissatisfaction with the unthinking habit of applying Western yardsticks when studying democracy. Since the imaginary homelands of democracy are changing, scholarly accounts of democracy must be opened to a wide variety of comparative methods and global settings previously ignored or downplayed by scholars.