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Towards a new democracy

Comparing the Netherlands and Spain

Admission:   (Pre-)Master’s students
Number of students: 5-15 students from all faculties
Time frame: 
March-May 2022
1 Saturday, 3 evenings, 1 study trip and 1 conference visit
Study load: Most of the work will take place within the meetings and study trips, but sometimes some preparation is needed.
Course coordinator: Evert van der Zweerde, Gaard Kets and Casper Kirkels
Study costs: None
Application deadline: February 13

What is the ideal form to rule a country or society? Which people make the decisions? Who is entitled to participate in the democratic process and to what extent? These fundamental questions have always been discussed. But in the last couple of years, we see that more and more people argue that the established parliamentary democracies in the western world are no longer able to function in an adequate way. The current systems seem unable to address, let alone solve the many political, cultural, social, and economic problems and as a consequence are struggling with a widening gap between government and citizens.

Although many people agree on the diagnosis, the best way forward is part of an intense debate. There is a consensus that some form of democratic renewal is essential, but can we fix the problems with a couple of relatively small modifications, do we need a more thorough renovation or is the only lasting solution a radical rethinking of our democratic system and the building of something completely new? How useful are additional democratic elements like referendums, compulsory voting, citizen forums, sortition instead of an election? Or do we need to give local councils more autonomy? In what way can forms of self-government at even smaller levels, like district, workplace, or borough, contribute to a better democratic infrastructure?


In this honours lab, we will focus on the potential of this last, communalist solution by investigating recent attempts in Spain and the Netherlands. We will go on a study trip to Spain where we visit some local examples in Valencia and/or Barcelona. We will also look at some first experimental attempts of communalism in Amsterdam (Mensen maken Amsterdam / People make Amsterdam). Besides that, we also pay attention to the way forms of democratic/communal art can contribute to the process of local self-government. We hope that by making comparisons between Spain and the Netherlands and by our own creative discussions we can get a clearer picture of possible ways forward for democracy which we can present in a creative way at the conference From Commune to Communalism in May.


Saturday, March 19 -  10.00 - 17.00 -  kick-off

Monday, March 21 - 19.00 - 21.00 - work session

Saturday, April 2 - times to be determined - excursion Amsterdam

Tuesday, April 12 - 19.00 - 21.00 - work session

Thursday, April 21 - Sunday, April 24 - Study trip Spain

Wednesday, May 18 - 19.00 - 21.00 - work session

May 19 - 20 - Conference From Commune to Communalism


You can apply for this honours lab via this form. The application deadline is February 13, 2022. Please include your CV and a motivation letter (of maximum 1 page) for the honours lab in your application.

If you have any questions, you can contact Floor Binkhorst (floor.binkhorst@ru.nl) or visit the information session in the beginning of February (date will be announced).