The idea of “militant democracy” refers to the need for democracies to defend themselves against those who seek to use the institutions of democracy to abolish democracy. The notion was developed in the 1930s and has experienced a major renaissance in recent years, against the backdrop of the much-discussed “crisis of democracy.” Its practical core used to be party bans and restrictions on free speech, but in a twenty-first century context new ideas – such as disqualifying individuals from running for office – have also been discussed. The idea has always been controversial, the main worry being that, in the process of defending itself, a democracy will already become authoritarian. The talk will address these dilemmas; there will be a discussion afterwards to see to what extent militant democracy should be applied in different countries today.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which put its people under mass physical and political extermination, has forced the European continent to question the very foundations of the institutional order it had been based on since the end of World War II. In the situation, when not just the future but the very present of Europe at large has appeared under direct existential threat from the Russian fascism, all the basic categories that the post-Nazi world relied on, such as democracy and authoritarianism, historicism and neocolonialism, pacifism and demonstration of protest, require a profound revision and change. The system of ideological coordinates as well as the outlines of the political spectrum we have been used to operate in are to be rearranged to tackle a new catastrophic reality.
The fundamental difference that we face in Europe at the moment between the Western approach characterized by the pursuit of peace and the Eastern one focused on liberation and independence poses a dramatic challenge – in order to survive and progress, democracy as a political regime has to be capable of defending itself also in a military way. What changes does it bring to the idea of the nation-state and the principles of internationalism? How will the notions and practices of citizenship, rule of law and human rights and freedoms be altered? In what way does it affect an economic apparatus and constitute the modus vivendi of our societies anew? How could a new political paradigm be safeguarded against imperialist and fascist misuse to prevent political and military violence by the strong against the weak?
Conceived by the Kyiv Biennial and Biennale Warszawa from the East Europe Biennial Alliance, this special public program Armed Democracy, curated by Vasyl Cherepanyn within the 2nd edition of Biennale Warszawa, revolves around the concepts of imperialism, liberation, fascism, autocracy, revolution, and militarization in pursuit of the world to come on Europe’s burnt out land. The program is a first part of the series organized by the East Europe Biennial Alliance discussing Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine and taking place in Warsaw, Prague, Kassel, and Riga over the summer and fall of 2022.
Jan-Werner Müller is Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Politics at Princeton University. He works mainly in democratic theory and the history of modern political thought; he also has research interests in the relationship between architecture and politics, as well as the normative implications of the current structural transformations of the public sphere. Publications include Constitutional Patriotism (2007), Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe (2011) and What is Populism? (2016), which has been translated into more than 20 languages. 2019 saw the publication of Furcht und Freiheit: Für einen anderen Liberalismus, which won the Bavarian Book Prize; in 2021, Democracy Rules appeared with FSG, Penguin, and Suhrkamp.
Vasyl Cherepanyn (Ukraine, 1980) is Head of the Visual Culture Research Center(VCRC), an institution founded in Kyiv in 2008 as a platform for collaboration among academic, artistic, and activist communities. He holds a PhD in philosophy (aesthetics) and has lectured at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), University of Helsinki, Free University of Berlin, Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, University of Vienna, Institute for Advanced Studies of the Political Critique in Warsaw, and University of Greifswald. He was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna in 2016. He coedited Guidebook of the Kyiv International (Medusa Books, 2018) and ’68 NOW (Archive Books, 2019), and curated The European International (Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam, 2018) and Hybrid Peace (Stroom, The Hague, 2019) among others. VCRC is the organizer of the Kyiv Biennial (The School of Kyiv, 2015; The Kyiv International, 2017; The Kyiv International—’68 NOW, 2018; Black Cloud, 2019; Allied, 2021) and a founding member of the East Europe Biennial Alliance. VCRC received the European Cultural Foundation Princess Margriet Award for Culture in 2015 and the Igor Zabel Award Grant for Culture and Theory in 2018.