.The formation of public opinion and thus of political majorities has changed fundamentally compared to the pre-digital age.
Social Media provides political actors with the means to directly address citizens at the exclusion of traditional intermediaries (parties, press) thereby creating the viability of a novel type of demagogic leader.
Meanwhile, the use of big data and artificial intelligence has lead to the introduction of a new form of online marketing into the political process permitting to address voters separately based on individual preferences.
At the same time digitalization empowers each and every citizen to participate much more immediately than ever before in the public debate. In short: the meaning of the "public" itself changes with digitalization.
This world has only begun to reveal itself but stands to transform substantially how public opinion is going to be formed in the years to come.
.The middle classes, backbone of any democracy, are tormented by diffuse existential anxieties.
Automation and digitalisation of white-collar jobs has only just begun but is bound to effect substantial changes to the way we work and indeed the work that is available.
Winners and losers of this sea change are far from certain and speculation as to which tasks will soon be obsolete abounds. And yet, the fear not to be able to maintain the standard of living contributes in parts of society to scepticism about the merits of liberal democracy and the multilateral institutional framework build upon it.
.Consensus on the role of the state, traditional institutions and the importance of the rule of law decreases.
The ongoing dissolution of milieus continues and with it the emancipation from political "catch-all" organizations such as parties, unions and churches. By way of consequence political identities and interests diversify. This increase of pluralism - in general not a bad thing in liberal democracy - in conjunction with existential anxiety, a dramatic shortening of the news cycle and the novel influence of un-edited sources of news (Tweets, Blogs, Whats-App groups, niche-websites, social-media in general) conduces to distrust in experts and elites and the state institutions essentially carried by them.
.Nationalism and authoritarianism experience an unexpected renaissance in this setting.
Just like at the beginning of the 20th century they suggest themselves as emotional anchors in an uncertain world. Unlike at the beginning of the past century however, they do not offer a complete ideology.
At times, the new nationalism pretends to be post-ideological, at times it employs fragments of racism, xenophobia, esoteric and the harking back to some glorified past, more imagined than real.
.We witness fundamental changes in the international realm. Democracy is not only challenged from within.
Rather authoritarian systems openly display a dedication to undermine democracy and the rule of law in the countries of the old west or present themselves as an alternative and work in international fora on redefinitions of the classic western, liberal concepts of democracy, the rule of law state and individual-centric human rights. Since the western liberal model no longer appears to be the unequivocal economic champion of that competition that it used to be during the cold war, these pressures carry additional weight. A new systemic competition is in the offing.
WE ARE WITNESSES TO THE EMERGENCE OF A NEW DIGITAL PUBLIC SPHERE
The confluence of those domestic and international factors exacerbates the difficulties for western democracies to sustain the liberal, multilateral world order the acceptance and appeal of which depends on the appreciation of those very values within the respective nation states.