Department of Politics and Society

Event by the doctoral programme at Department of Politics and Society

William Claes Oscar E. Sjöstedt will defend his PhD thesis ”SHOULD DEMOCRACY BECOME INTERGENERATIONAL? On the inclusion of Youth and Future Generations in the Anthropocene”

Invitation to PhD defence by William Claes Oscar E. Sjöstedt

William Claes Oscar E. Sjöstedt will defend his PhD thesis ”SHOULD DEMOCRACY BECOME INTERGENERATIONAL? On the inclusion of Youth and Future Generations in the Anthropocene”


09.10.2023 kl. 13.00 - 16.00



The project Should Democracy become Intergenerational? On the Inclusion of Youth and Future Generations in the Anthropocene discusses the legitimacy of excluding children and future generations from democracy and how we may justify political decisions to these groups. The boundary problem, of who ought to be included in democratic procedures is well-discussed in political theory. However, often youth and future generations are excluded from the discussion. This in spite of the intuition that all who are affected by a political decision ought to have a say in that decision. The project investigates the justifications presented for these exclusions in order to evaluate whether practices of exclusion are democratically legitimate or constitute a form of domination or arbitrary rule. The project both finds serious issues with the theoretical work on this area and suggests alternative theoretical understandings.

In light of climate change and the growing timelines of impact of our decisions, questions regarding who the people are, will be pushed to the fore-front. Especially as in many cases, youth and future generations are likely to be more affected by climate issues. A core question of the project is how climate change alters how we take decisions when it affects people beyond those who can participate. The idea of democracy is presented as an inter-generational project, where all generations are owed their turn with democracy. This is in contrast to the perspective that children and future generations are owed a seat in our institutions now, it may be more important to maintain the conditions of democratic rule. This view of turn-taking in the philosophical discourse has only seen very limited discussion prior.

In discussing children and democracy, complex questions of capacity, autonomy and responsibility must weighed against each-other. While questions of capacity to participate tend to be prioritized, due to the politically contingent nature of capacity, this approach has signigicant flaws. Instead it is proposed to treat these as a cases of turn-taking, where the age of inclusion is to be based on the effects it has on children, and whether the added responsibility at a younger age may be harmful or helpful for their development into autonomy. Most perspectives do not consider the impact this would have on children and their development, and focus solely on the impact on the democratic system, thus broadening the debate.

As it regards potential democratic rights of future generations, issues of insecurity are discussed; regarding their preferences, interests and the impact of our decisions and for how long we can really speak of representation.I propose that we cannot speak of democratic representation of future generations, as there is no means for the represented to authorize the represented, even retroactively. Therefore, I suggest that turn-taking is a better model of democracy here, where the main responsibility of the present generation is to be found in maintenance of democratic structures and avoidance of harm. This has strong implications regarding the policies and institutions constructed, as they should be focused more on letting future generations take their own decisions, rather than letting future generations take part in our decision-making processes.

The project contains a monograph as well as three journal articles titled Regimes of childhood and the democratic inclusion of children. A framework for delimiting legitimate inclusion and exclusion of young persons in democracyAtt växa in i demokratin: autonomi och rättfärdiggörande för unga i Danmark och Sverige (Growing into democracy, autonomy and justification for youth in Denmark and Sweden); and How future-oriented should democracy be? Presentism, representation and self-determination for future generations.

Members of the assessment committee

Professor Antje Gimmler, Aalborg University (chair)

Professor Christian F. Rostbøll, University of Copenhagen

Professor Ludvig Beckman, Stockholm University


Karen Nielsen Breidahl, Associate professor and Head of the PhD programme, Aalborg University


Please sign up at this link no later than Monday 2 October 2023 at 12:00.

Light refreshments will be served after the public defence (Fibigerstræde 1)

Download the invitation


If you have any questions regarding the PhD defence, please contact the PhD programme secretary Marianne Høgsbro.



Department of Politics and Society, Aalborg University


Aalborg Universitet, Fibigerstræde 5, room 32, 9220 Aalborg East and online via Zoom

Registration Deadline

02.10.2023 kl. 12.00

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Department of Politics and Society • Fibigerstræde 1 og 3, 9220 Aalborg East • Frederikskaj 10B, 2450 Copenhagen SV
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