Present-day ideas of direct democracy generally refer to the Athenian polis as an imagined ideal. This ancient ideal and the early attempts to realize it first led to dynamic changes in the institution of citizenship and in the relationship between the Popular Assembly and the Areopagus, the highest judicial and executive council, as a result of which the latter lost its prerogatives in the Assembly. In general, Greek philosophers and historians had a rather negative view of Athenian democracy. Yet the concept of direct democracy reappeared later on, as in the political philosophy of  Rousseau, and during the French Revolution. The criticism leveled at this democratic ideal followed two directions. First, critics argued  that people in general were not motivated by the common interest. Second, it was claimed that the implementation of the idea was only possible in communities with a small population.

Unlike direct democracy, the democracy of the modern nation-state is an indirect, parliamentary democracy in which the collective will is defined by the majority of representatives elected in turn by the electorate. However, various modern political institutions operate on the principles of direct democracy. These institutions include, for example, popular assemblies, referendums, popular  initiatives,  popular vetoes, or recalls. In the Swiss and the American political systems direct democracy and its institutions are highly respected, and in  many other countries they play an important political role within indirect democratic systems of government.

            The general aim of this workshop is to discuss direct democracy in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. More specifically, the discussion will revolve around comparative and interdisciplinary studies on three related aspects:

(1) an assessment of the democratic processes currently in place in the region;

(2) a description and analysis of various institutions based on the principle of direct democracy; and

 (3) comparative studies of the implementation of solutions characteristic of direct democracy at the local and national level. 

Please submit a 300 words abstract to Maria Marczewska-Rytko, at:

Chair: Maria Marczewska-Rytko
Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland

Workshop: Direct Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989

​​​​​​2016 ISSEI conference 

The University of Lodz, Poland