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Is democracy under threat?

An interview with Anthony Barnett, co-founder of openDemocracy.net

In April the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was re-elected for a third term after a campaign focussing on the threat posed to Hungary by immigration, although there is virtually no migration to Hungary. U.S. President Donald Trump continues to tweet and cry “fake news!” in response to reports which paint his behaviour in a less than positive light. The world’s wealthiest continue to accumulate ever more wealth (and power) while those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder struggle on a daily basis. Social media platforms have become data farms to be harvested for the purpose of manipulating voters and swing elections. If democracy is supposed to be government by the people, to what extent are all these phenomena whittling away the power which is – in theory – invested in us, the people?

The writer and campaigner Anthony Barnett co-founded the openDemocracy.net website in 2001, was its editor-in-chief until 2007 and continues to contribute. He describes himself as “an advocate and organiser of political openness” and says politics today is conducted in a closed manner. He sees the gaping inequality in the world as a threat to democracy and points to Neoliberalism as “a form of capitalism that denies it is governed” as the underlying cause. He sees the presence of Donald Trump in the White House as a threat which must be defeated, but also says that will require understanding the forces which put him there. He says the digital age is changing what it means to be human and that we should have the fundamental right to own our meta data. And he believes that with the right political approach, migration and integration can be successfully managed.

Joanna King raised these questions in an interview with Anthony Barnett who also explains why, in spite of all the threats, he believes there will be a democratic upsurge in the near future.

Joanna King spoke to Anthony Barnett in April when he was in Vienna as a guest fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences:

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