Polarisation around the World, with Thomas Carothers

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“You really do have to do bridge building at the community level. People have to learn to talk to each other across sides”

The Left and the Right today are miles apart. In the past few years, polarisation has become an integral part of our societies. But has it always been this way - is polarisation a natural part of democracy?

Covering the politics of polarisation from Chile through India to Vietnam, via long-standing democracies such as the US and Germany, this week’s guest Thomas Carothers suggests that there are three roots present in every polarised society - religion, race and ideological clashes. But what about societies with no polarisation? According to Thomas, they’re at risk too.

“Too much consensus can lead to a dangerous pressure for alternatives that usually tend to be anti systemic, extreme and dangerous…”

Listen to Turi and Thomas discuss:

  • Polarisation as a fixture of democracy
  • How consensus leads to polarised societies
  • Whether there are problems with a lack of polarisation
  • The creation of grievance politics
  • How Brexit created a different identity polarisation
  • Whether polarisation can be a good thing
  • How grievance politics differ from Right to Left
  • Whether we can manage polarisation
  • If the pandemic has made us less polarised
“I think the pandemic has opened our hearts and our minds a little bit in ways that’ll help us feel at least some sense of common humanity beneath the level of the political noise…”

Thomas Carothers

Thomas Carothers is senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, the rule of law, and civil society. He is also the author of Democracies Divided: the global challenges of political polarisation


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