Listen: Headspace #5—democracy under attack

The fifth edition of Prospect's monthly podcast

January 16, 2017
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Power to the people! As an ideal democracy has long reigned unchallenged, but could it fall out of fashion after the convulsions of Brexit and Trump?

Certainly, Vladimir Putin’s cyberwars raise new questions about its integrity. Journalist Luke Harding, who was expelled from Russia in 2011, explains how the Kremlin’s campaign of democratic disruption abroad exports tricks long in use in its elections at home. He also relays his first-hand experience of Putin’s spies, who left sex manuals by his martial bed!

Freshly returned from Indonesia, “recovering epidemiologist” Elizabeth Pisani talks about the bottom-up culture that makes elections vibrant out there, and draws inspiration from the young Aids activists of the 1980s. They demonstrated how active democratic campaigning by ordinary people can change the direction of things. In the end, the health of democracy is bound to depend on the way its building blocks—that is, individual human beings—make decisions. The bad news, says economist John Kay, is that we aren’t systematically rational; but the good news is that this does not make us any less wise.