Society & Politics

Can Democracy Exist Without Trust?


Ivan Krastev

In this TED talk, political theorist, Ivan Krastev discusses the crisis of trust which is facing democracy. He does so by examining five revolutions over the past fifty years that have changed the way we look at politics:

  • The cultural and social revolution of the late 1960s
  • The market revolution of the 1980s
  • The revolution that came with the collapse of communism
  • The internet revolution which has changed communication
  • The brain science revolution which has shown how people make decisions

With respect to each, Krastev argues that they were both "what went right" and "what went wrong." On the one hand, they have collectively given us greater freedom, access to more information, and an increasing global awareness. These same revolutions, however, have also led to a degrading of communal structures, a growth in inequality, a ghettoising of viewpoints, and more ready means of manipulation. It is with the mixed results of these revolutions in mind that Krastev examines the crisis of trust and the subsequent loss of political engagement. He finds that, like the other revolutions, the proposed solution of transparency is most likely to produce a mixed bag of rights and wrongs of which we need to be aware.

Mixed bags, however, are something that Christians are all too familiar with and the church should be able to offer wise middle ground to each of these five revolutions. For instance, instead of embracing individualism wholesale, we can offer the opportunity to participate as members in communities that form a collective purpose. Likewise, Christian communities should be spaces that are open to discussion of all topics, discouraging the retreat to ghettos where only one opinion is recognized. As people withdraw from political interaction, there is again an opportunity for Christians to step into the void rather than just call for more transparency.

Instead of fearing political involvement due to a moral decline, we have the possibility to engage and make a change in our surrounding world. There is space for us to politically interact as a citizen, asking questions and calling elected officials to account, or even becoming more involved as an elected official. In this way, we can be politically minded not just in moral questions, but larger questions that influence the nation. We have the possibility of changing the moral climate of politics, hopefully addressing the causes of mistrust and the root need for transparency.

Source: TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

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