Research at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy explores the plurality of democratic experiences and aspirations in a global and comparative perspective.

Moving beyond straightforwardly materialist or liberal-normative efforts to understand democratic politics, it studies everyday practices of democratic participation. The Centre seeks to understand what ails democracies worldwide, the growing disenchantment of citizens with democratic political power, and shifts from liberal to illiberal democracy that increasingly blur the divide between the two.

New modes and modalities of popular mobilisation interest us in this context. Building on the seminal insights of Albert O. Hirschman, we examine changing forms of civic engagement that produce new configurations of "voice" and "exit". We are interested in understanding the changing nature of public protest, whether in the streets or on the internet; the increasing use of law to render governments accountable; and the form and relevance of individual democratic participation as the divide between public and private political lives erodes.

Research projects by the Research team, the faculty of the Graduate Institute as well as doctoral students address a wide variety of issues around the effectiveness of democratic institutions and the efforts by citizens to render them accountable. To this aim the Centre will also initiate interdisciplinary and trans-regional projects in collaboration with its affiliates and its institutional partners.

Our publications contribute to highlight the changing nature of civic engagement in liberal and illiberal democracies as well as the plurality of experiences of democracy in various regions of the world.

The Centre’s research programme opens up the space for interdisciplinary comparative research on democracy.

Our activities are organised along four main themes:

1) Voice and participation in policy processes
2) Disorder and democratic voices
3) Law, courts and democracy
4) Transparency, accountability and regulation