Social and political polarization is a new (or at least, dramatically intensifying) force that is having a huge impact on political discourse, public policy and electoral outcomes in many democracies such as in the US, in Europe and in the Americas. It may be an important compounding factor in the ongoing erosion of the centrist political parties (left and right) that were the anchors in a long period of political stability and economic progress; as the center melts, it becomes harder and harder to sustain either of those. Indeed, the pollsters would have us believe that significant majorities in too many countries now share a common demand for a “strong man” to solve their problems, since they have lost much of their trust in politicians, parties and even the political system.
This may be somewhat of an extreme formulation. Nonetheless, it is one reason to delve into the polarization question. The Tällberg Foundation has been asked by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to participate in their conference, entitled Creativity, Imagination and the Importance of Reactivating Public and Ethical Spaces in a Highly Polarized Society, taking place in Athens during June 21-23. The Tällberg Foundation will help to devise the program on polarization on June 22.
The polarization program will include a series of panels, interactive sessions with the audience, artistic performance, presentations and other elements designed not just to inform, but also to engage the audience in thinking about polarization and its consequences. In fact, part of our method will be to use the highly politicized nexus of migration/borders/sovereignty to demonstrate the tendency towards polarization; often, discussion around those issues at local, national and regional levels often degenerate into irresolvable debate rather than agreed policy actions.
We want to explore why that happens. Why more today than in the past? Are we hard wired towards that end? What is the role of modern media? What happens to democracy as we know it if the polarization tendencies continue? Who is responsible and what can be done, at the local, national, European and global levels?
These are some of the questions the participants will discussion on June 22.
SNF (www.SNF.org) is one of the world’s leading private international philanthropic organizations, making grants in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and sports, and social welfare.
SNF funds organizations and projects that are expected to achieve a broad, lasting and positive impact for society at large, focusing on vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly, and also exhibit strong leadership and sound management. SNF also seeks actively to support projects that facilitate the formation of public-private partnerships as an effective means for serving public welfare.