Laboratoire BABEL

EA 2649
Langages, littératures, civilisations et sociétés

Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies – Governance – 01 – 2019: Trust in governance

Project proposal

ReC-Rebuilding Confidence. From the politics of distrust to a democracy of trust

Leading organization: Università degli Studi di Macerata (UNIMC), Italy

Area Coordinator: Université de Toulon, France (UTLN)


The overall objective of ReC Project is to cope with the problem of distrust in democracy by means of innovative methodology: based on an articulated and complete theoretical approach, an empirical and experimental phase will be developed with innovative methods and will lead to the development of new tools to encourage participative decision making, and, finally, to restore confidence in democratic institutions both at national and UE levels.

ReC Project has the following three specific objectives:

– 1) highlight main factors related to distrust in governance and investing their possible relationships in crucial areas such as: a) the perception of democratic powers: confidence in institutions, trust in representatives; b) the crisis of responsiveness; c) the dangerous integration of distrust’s factors in the representative system, also considering Brexit experience; d) the increasing request for “identity protection” of rights; e) the role of communication (in particular, social media) towards mutual mistrust and lack of legitimacy between European and national stakeholder; f) the growing « populist attitude » of European voters; g) the potential conflict between representative institutions and direct democracy; h) representation and perceptions of democracy, also in comparative perspective outside EU.  – 2) develop useful criteria and measurable indicators of increasing distrust, and verify whether and under what conditions the trust is affected by acquiring knowledge and political education, through experimentation and applied research targeting different groups of citizens, and using both experienced and innovative tools (expert interactive seminars, workshops, questionnaires, digital storytelling, serious game, snowballing surveys); – 3) and finally offer a set of policy proposals to restore and increase trust in governance both within the Member States and EU, and develop new technological tools to promote a participative decision making based on a closer connection between citizens and institutions both at national and European level.      

Representations and perceptions of democracy, also in comparative perspective outside UE

Research questions: Is it possible to discover and to understand similarities and differences among EU countries and between European experience and non-EU democratic countries in which confidence in institutions and trust in representatives are particularly stressed by the perception of democracy?

UTLN-FR will coordinate the study about the effects of the traditional political parties’ crisis, identifying the « presence » – and possibly the “persistence” – of the memories connected to their respective political cultures. The goal is to estimate the weight that they exercised, at the turn from the 20th to the 21th century, with regard to the changing political framework as well as the development of the enlargement process and the legitimation of the European construction.

Through a comparative analysis, the reasons of the « fatigue » of liberal democracy in the framework of European integration will be investigated. Furthermore, the research aims at reconstructing the historical origins of Europe’s malaise; origins deriving from a crisis of the solidarity that united – in spite of their differences – the democratic political cultures (right and left) after the end of World War II and « stabilized » them in the context of the Cold War.

Besides, a significant part of the research will be dedicated to the US-European relationship. The following topics will be analysed: 1) the evolution of the relationship between the US and Europe in the European construction process from 1989 till today. This is a central issue for understanding the origins of the European integration project, from its birth out of the “Soviet orbit”, closely linked to the US foreign policy after World War II, to the creation of the single currency and the present day. 2) what factors of American policy had an impact on the decisions of the EU both from an economic and military point of view; 3) their representations (historical, literary, cinematographic, musical, cultural in general) of these factors meant to measure how they had imprinted themselves into the crisis of confidence in the EU.

Another topic of research, still regarding the American case, will be the policy that unites the nationalist-populist parties and movements currently gaining ground in the US, but also in Italy and France and more generally in all Western democracies; a policy, which is based on the protection of identity as a cultural and national bond . The « visions » of these parties and movements, as expressed in their political communication, also have a strong reference to the religious tradition, which serves as a lever of mobilization for the protection of the culture of the citizens from cosmopolitanism, globalization, migratory waves and Islamic fundamentalism. Indeed, the political appeal to the religious legacy has become an anchor to preserve the identity values, the decline of which has become an opportunity to penetrate those political paradigms which aim at eradicating the differences and wiping away the problems. In this sense, special attention will be paid to the group of neo-conservative Christians in the US, with the scope of identifying possible analogies with European movements and parties.

Finally, in the context of the crisis of liberal democracies, of which those attentive to the evolution of contemporary events are increasingly speaking, the last questions to ask is the following: through what historical-social and political plots are the current political events connected to the role and the responsibilities of journalistic communication, traditional media, the Net and social media? Through a sociological analysis, the research will follow an « ethnographic » methodology to investigate the health status of journalism and new media; not so much from an economic, « diffusional » or technological perspective, but rather from an epistemological point of view, focusing on knowledge and « contents ». This approach centers on the dissemination of ideas and on the formalization of those very values and visions of the world that the world of information offers to its audience.

Simone Visciola (Associate Professor, Contemporary History)
Equipe de recherche
Gilles Leydier (Director of the BABEL EA 2649 Research laboratory, Full Professor, Political History and Politics)
Marie Gayte (Associate Professor, United States History)
Loredana Ruccella (Associate Professor, Political Linguistics Studies)
Alessandro Leiduan (Associate Professor, Semiotics Studies)
Università degli Studi di Macerata (UNIMC), IT; Istituto Luigi Sturzo (ILS), Roma, IT; Università degli studi di Messina (UNIME), IT; Università degli studi Guglielmo Marconi (USGM), IT; Panteion University (PAN), EL; Institute for Public Affairs (IPA), PL; Loughbrough University (LBORO), UK; Institute for Democracy (IDSCS), MK; University of Ljubljana (UL), SI; University of Toulon (UTLN), FR; The Nottingham Trent University (TNTU), UK; University of Oradea (UNORA), RO.