Deliberation Against Populism

The goals of Social Science Works are the furthering of social inclusion and cohesion, the empowerment of disadvantaged groups, and the countering of populism and radicalism. We develop new deliberative ways for meaningful political participation and new ways to strengthen civic competences. The rise of political alienation and populism in almost all western democracies shows that currently not only deliberations with refugees are asked for. Also native citizens appear to have a need to deliberate and reevaluate the ideas, values, ideals and views that keep their societies together.


Social Science Works has got a new deliberative project, made possible by Tolerantes Brandenburg: “Deliberation against Populism”. In collaboration with four students of the Alice Salomon Hochschule Berlin we will organize two deliberative events with in total 20 citizens from Brandenburg to discuss the problems that these citizens bother or trouble. Important goal of the project is to find new ways to get into contact with citizens that see themselves as political alienated or unrepresented, and to engage them again in the democratic discourse.

Together with the participants we explore their take on current society – which problems, challenges, opportunities and perspectives they see, and how these hang together. We want to show and to experience that it is possible, useful, enlightening and even entertaining to discuss with other citizens fundamental values, ideas and perspectives. It is a general experience in citizenship, deliberation, reflection, civility, and social and political participation that hopefully will prepare the ground for many more deliberative exchanges. Important is to give room to the solution-oriented articulation of frustrations that might exist with regard political misrepresentation. Decisive is to give all participants a fair opportunity to articulate felt troubles and grievances, without the fear of stigmatization.

We will search for our participants on social media and invite them personally to deliberate for one or two days with a group of other worried citizens. We offer each group the assistance to formulate a position paper which can be published, among others, on our website, and can be presented to political representatives. In our project we will build on the experiences we made in 2016 with deliberative projects with both German citizens and refugees.

We treat the participants of our workshops as citizens that are able to examine together with us the fundamental values and problems of our society. A pivotal problem of populism is that the citizens concerned do not feel represented and respected by the social, political and media establishment. Therefore, they cut the relations with mainstream political parties, journalism (“Lügen Presse”), interest and other societal groups, and lock themselves up in bubbles of like-minded “victims”. Getting these citizens again participating in the broad societal conversation is one of the most pressing vocations of contemporary western democracies. In trying to get these citizens on board again, it is not helpful to address them implicitly as “social problems”, as people with social, psychological, educational, or occupational flaws and not able to have a straightforward, rational discussion about their ideas and views. This disdain is easily recognized by the people concerned and strengthens their belief not be taken seriously as citizens. For more on this theme, click here.

This project concluded in October 2017.

A summary of the project’s results and initial analysis is available to download here: Deliberation against Populism English.