TRS.20.019 – Everyday democracy: citizenship and leadership at work

Route: Towards resilient societies

Cluster question: 033 How robust is democracy, how much confidence does society have in it, and how can we make improvements in both cases?

In the Netherlands, everyday interactions have impressively democratized over the past five decades. Neighbours negotiate the use of public spaces. Pupils and their parents don’t hesitate to criticize their teachers. Social workers and clients engage in dialogue at the kitchen table to reach consent about the best care plan. The contrast with our much more authoritarian neighbouring countries Germany and Belgium is striking. However, Dutch everyday democracy also regularly fails, ending up in aggression and sometimes even violence. This project aims to simultaneously investigate both sides: how can we understand the great success of Dutch everyday democracy as well as instances of its failure? Are the successes and failures of everyday democracy in any way related? The proposition of the project is that viable democratic interactions need actors with democratic virtues like fairness, compassion, open-mindedness, who can balance compliance and criticism. This leads to a twofold central research question: a) when and why do citizens and professionals (fail to) enact democratic virtues and b) how can democratic virtues can be cultivated in (future) citizens and professionals/officials. The project will be divided into four projects that focus on (a) conditions of democratic virtuous interactions; (b) the importance of exemplary behaviour of professionals and the role of exemplars; (c) the role of edifying leadership in cultivating democratic virtues of professional; (d) cultivating democratic virtues of new generation of citizens and professionals/officials. The project combines philosophical and social scientific research. The philosophical research aims to clarify the central concepts and provide arguments for the central normative-ethical claims. The qualitative empirical research (observation, shadowing, in-depth interviews) aims to provide insight into the way in which actors understand their interactions, how they reflect on them and how these findings translate back to theory.


authority, citizenship, everyday democracy, leadership


Organisation University of Humanistic Studies
Name Prof. dr. E. (Evelien) Tonkens
Website, www.evelientonkensl