Seminar | Future Sensitivity of Democracy

Time: June 17, 2019 at 13.00-17.00

Venue: The Main Library, Studio (Linnankatu 2, Turku)

Should democracies be more future sensitive?
Can political institutions be designed to care about the future?
Has democratic deliberation capacity for future-making?


Mark E. Warren (University of British Columbia):
Rethinking the future sensitivity of democracy through the all affected principle (pdf)

Graham Smith (University of Westminster):
The legitimacy of independent offices for future generations (pdf)

Nicole Curato (University of Canberra):
Future-making as practice of public deliberation (pdf)


13.00 Welcome

13.00 Prof Mark E. Warren (University of British Columbia):
Rethinking the future sensitivity of democracy through the all affected principle

Discussant: Dr Simo Kyllönen (University of Helsinki)

14.00 Coffee

14.30 Prof Graham Smith (University of Westminster):
The legitimacy of independent offices for future generations

Discussant: Prof Maija Setälä (University of Turku)

15.30 Break

15.45 Dr Nicole Curato (University of Canberra):
Future-making as practice of public deliberation

Discussant: Prof Henri Vogt (University of Turku)

16.45 Closing remarks

Seminar programme (pdf)

Seminar poster (pdf) 

The seminar is free of charge and open to everyone interested in the topic.

The registration is closed. If you would like to post-register, kindly contact Mari Taskinen, mjtask(at)

Further information:
Please direct questions about the event to Maija Setälä, maiset(at)

Organiser:  Participation in Long-Term Decision-Making (PALO) is a multidisciplinary research project that focuses on the problems related to long-term decision-making practices. The PALO consortium consists of four organisations: the University of Turku, the Natural Resource Institute Finland, Åbo Akademi University and the University of Tampere. The four-year (2017-2021) project is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) at the Academy of Finland.


Mark E. Warren: Rethinking the future sensitivity of democracy through the all affected principle

The principle that all those affected by a collective decision should be included in the decision is long-standing, dating at least back to the Justinian Code (V,59,5,2) in Roman private law: “what touches all must be approved by all.” Over the last several decades, the idea has migrated into democratic theory, often without much remark, almost as if this principle of inclusion stands as common sense, with little need of specification and justification. This principle, however, is increasingly in conflict with what has emerged as the standard view of inclusion dating back to the democratization of modern nation-states. Entitlements to a say over collective matters should follow membership of living adults. Yet justifications for democratic inclusion based on membership are increasingly undermined by a combination of changing ethics and developing social and political entanglements, both territorial and temporal. Collective decisions (or collective neglect) by living members of a polity impacts capacities for self-government—the democratic agency—of those beyond both political and temporal borders. In this talk, I argue that explicitly rebuilding democratic theory around the All Affected Principle will help to sensitize polities to those kinds of affects that undermine or support the capacities of those beyond borders—jurisdictional and temporal—to decide their futures.

Mark E. Warren holds the Harold and Dorrie Merilees Chair for the Study of Democracy at the University of British Columbia. He is especially interested in democratic innovations, civil society and democratic governance, and political corruption. He is currently working with an international team on a project entitled Participedia, which uses a web-based platform to collect data about democratic innovation and participatory governance around the world.

Graham Smith:
The legitimacy of independent offices for future generations

Independent offices for future generations (OFGs) are rare amongst institutional designs that aim to increase the future sensivity of democracy in that they have been institutionalized in a (small) number of democratic polities. Drawing on the experience of the Israeli, Hungarian and Welsh Commissioners for Future Generations, the paper argues that an OFG faces at least two challenges to its legitimacy. The first relates to its capacity to adequately represent the plurality of interests within and across future generations. The second to its political fragility; its capacity to become a stable and influential part of the democratic infrastructure. The paper develops the apparently counterintuitive argument that both aspects of legitimacy can be enhanced through embedding systematic public participation in their decision-making processes.

Graham Smith is a professor of Politics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Westminster. His main research interests are in democratic theory and practice (particularly participatory democratic institutions), climate and environmental politics and the third sector/social economy. He is currently involved in a number of funded research projects, including Scholio (University of Connecticut), Participedia (SSHRC) and AssoDem (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness). Recently completed projects include Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit (ESRC) and Cherry-picking.


Nicole Curato: Future-making as practice of public deliberation

My presentation proposes the concept of ‘future-making’ as central of the everyday practice of public deliberation. By future-making, I refer to the ways in which political communities imagine, propose and contest their collective aspirations. For deliberative democracy to overcome the illiberal present, I argue that emphasis must be placed not only on citizens’ capacity for inclusive and authentic deliberation, but also in their capacity to aspire and develop the political agency needed to achieve their visions. Without this capacity, deliberative politics is limited by paralyzing and uninspiring pragmatism. Deliberative democracy, I argue, is hinged on the expectation that citizens who discuss the future have the power to shape them.

The perspective I offer in this presentation is based on five years of field research in communities affected by natural disasters and violent conflict in the Philippines. I offer ethnographic portraits demonstrating how vulnerable communities develop capacities to aspire amidst trauma and widespread suffering. My presentation also discusses the seemingly mundane yet behavior-shaping practices that hinder the pursuit of deliberative futures.

Nicole Curato is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled ‘Democracy in the Age of Misery,’ which seeks to develop a defensible theory of democracy amidst widespread suffering. Her main research interests include deliberative democracy, contemporary social theory, and qualitative methods. Her work has been published in Policy Sciences, Current Sociology, European Political Science Review and Acta Politica, among others.