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NORDSCI Conference proceedings 2018, Book 1



PhDr. Martin Šimsa, Ph.D.


This paper explores the question of democracy today in the Czech Republic, namely where democracy stands and what needs to be taken to account to support democracy in the recent outburst of nationalism and populism. To answer this question, I will first examine the origins of democracy and define its typical forms. I will look into the stories of democracy (American, British, French) and how they are intertwined with nationalism and populism in order to identify similarities and differences relevant for examining modern democracy in the Czech Republic.
The method of my research is hermeneutical critique, which consists in critical reading (critical hermeneutics) of relevant texts concerning democracy (Schumpeter, Popper, Habermas), nationalism (Renan, Rádl, Gellner) and populism (Müller), comparing and discussing the key ideas and institutions.
Although the concept of Czech democracy was a child of American democracy (Masaryk), today it seems to be a mixture of neoliberal democracy (Schumpeter, Klaus) with nationalistic and populistic forms (Zeman, Babiš). Indeed, democracy has been connected to nationalism and populism since its origins, and there are theorists (Badiou) who claim that populism is a common part of democracy.
Nationalism in the Czech Republic, however, represents an older and stronger concept in the 19th century than that of democracy. Therefore, I will explore various forms and theories of nationalism, especially those relevant in the Czech Republic (Herder, Fichte), and discuss them together with the critique of nationalism (Rádl, Gellner). Unlike nationalism, populism is an old concept of government, which started to play a significant role in western democracies rather recently, especially in Central Europe. Deriving its legitimacy from the concept of people, populism is substantial for understanding democracy, since they share a common concept.
To better grasp the intricacies of modern democracy, we must further connect all these concepts with those of modernity, religion or secularism to open a fair discussion that respects all partners and knows how to integrate its critics. Nationalism in its positive form of self-critical pride, local patriotism or civil participation needs not be harmful. Populism can be tamed by not only other politicians and media, but even more by critical and informed citizens. An effective remedy for nationalism and populism consists in building a stronger, educated, critical, and civil democratic society.


Democracy, Nationalism, Populism, Critical Dialogue, Civil Society


NORDSCI Conference Proceedings 2018 Book 1, Conference Proceedings, ISSN 2603-4107, ISBN 978-619-7495-00-3, A HERMENEUTICAL CRITIQUE OF CZECH DEMOCRACY, 355-364 pp, DOI paper 10.32008/nordsci2018/B1/V1/45

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