Democracy in crisis


  • Lawrence Hamilton University of the Witwatersrand



democracy, COVID-19, crisis, leadership, needs, institutions


In this article I submit that the pandemic politics of the Covid-19 crisis have unmasked the inadequacies of existing representative democracies. Mixing the experiences and responses of various democracies and thinkers to this crisis, particularly from India and South Africa, I argue that a minimally functioning democracy must do two things at least: ensure the health and well- being of citizens and the equal means competitively to select prudent, empathetic and courageous leaders. For this, I suggest, we need a politics that allows us to express and assess our needs, and determine who is best placed to represent us in responding to these needs, all in non-dominating conditions. To this end, the article also proposes and defends four institutional reforms that would enable a dynamic, anti-oligarchic form of democracy to consistently empower the least powerful and keep elites properly in check.


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