Economic crises and quality of democracy in Europe
A scientific knowledge that relies upon robust analytical and methodological tools is a necessary condition to the improvement of social and political institutions andto the creation of institutional capacities cope with the challenges addressed by the economic crises and the international changes to the European democracies. It isnot out of pure coincidence that the program Horizon 2020 grants to the goal that consist into pursuing solid conditions of inclusiveness and security the core of theEU research agenda. CriEc&Demo is a research program places at the crossroad of the key dilemmas raised by recent processes of change involving the Europeancountries in relation to the economic crises, at first financial in their nature and afterwards transformed in crises of the real national debts. This program is strongly committed to put at the disposal of the European research agenda's goals the most advanced and innovative tools in the empirical analysis of the democratic quality. CriEc&Demo aims to operate in two directions: interacting with the political and social studies in the international scientific community, for Italy to acquire a leadingrole in the empirical analysis of advanced democracies, and generating knowledge in the context of applied social sciences.
This double nature - theoretical andmethodological vocation and attention towards public policies which are formulated following an evidence-based approach - will characterize the whole program.Through the implementation of CriEc&Demo we expect to reach four main results. First of all, the development, deepening, and spreading off of a comprehensiveanalytical tool that can be used in the empirical assessment of the democratic quality of a country and in the detection of those factors that in this country facilitate orhamper the worsening/deepening of eight dimensions of the democratic quality. We consider these dimensions by relying upon a vast scholarship and the bulk of theempirical research shared at the international level as constitutive components of a democracy. This tool is composed by a codebook with a list of guiding questions tocollect data for each of the eight dimensions: rule of law, inter-institutional accountability, electoral accountability, competition, participation, responsiveness,freedom, equality/solidarity. This tool is also comprehensive of a solid methodology to integrate the quantitative data analysis with qualitative data. Finally the toolprovides with guide lines in the data coding. Secondly, we aims to produce a robust scientific knowledge which will contribute to the scientific progress from the pointof view of the research. This knowledge is also going to provide institutions and policy makers with solid empirical evidence to improve the effectiveness of theirdecisions. In particular we want to test empirically the hypotheses we have listed in section 12 to assess the extent to which the economic crises are factors that triggerprocesses of deepening or worsening of the democratic qualities. We want also to cast light on the mechanisms that are responsible for this to happen. The knowledgewe are going to produce will be framed in a way that it will be at disposal not only of the international scientific community, but also of the policy makers, morespecifically within the European Union, the target area of our investigation. Thirdly, we offer a fundamental contribution to the achievement of the goals foreseen byHorizon 2020. We want to make CriEc&Demo a source of the type of knowledge that is necessary to identify the institutional conditions that can facilitate the creationor the maintenance of sociopolitical inclusiveness and security.
We want to answer without endorsing a normative vision of a good democracy, rather starting from an empirical analysis that only can resist the restless changesthrough which history challenges continuously our institutions. Furthermore, our methodology uses the qualitative analysis as a way to deepen and integrate thequantitative analysis and, thereby, it innovates the current scholarship on this topic. Finally, we deliver a product that is going to last beyond the end of CriEc&DEmo.This will be done with the creation of an Observatory on democratic quality, which is permanently working in partnership with the international scientific community.This allows Italy and a strong Italian team in which several junior researchers will be working to promote a new research stream and a new methodology. This willalso help reaching a level of scientific excellence by means of a synergic collaboration with a vast network of contacts that the team here represented can rely upon.