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Democracy and its Discontents: Resources from Carnegie Council

July 21, 2017

CREDIT: SUXSIEQ (CC)

No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time . . .
---Winston Churchill, 1947

For decades after the end of World War II when Churchill made this pronouncement, it seemed that democracy was steadily gaining ground around the world. Yet today, the basic tenets of liberal democracy seem under threat. Carnegie Council presents a selection of recent talks and interviews on the workings of democracy; the decline of the liberal order and the rise of populism; illiberal and partial democracies; and new threats to democracy in the digital age.


THE EVOLUTION OF DEMOCRACY

Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought
James T. Kloppenberg, Harvard University
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
"Democracy begins in bloodshed and it comes to life only through conflict," says Harvard's James T. Kloppenberg in this masterful talk. How have the French Revolution and civil wars in England and America "poisoned the ethic of reciprocity on which democracy depends"? Why is this so important now? (Public Affairs Program, audio, video, TV show, and transcript, April 2017)


THESE UNITED STATES

Shades of Red and Blue: State of the Union
John W. Dean, White House Counsel, President Richard Nixon (1970-1973); Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker; John Podhoretz, Commentary, New York Post, The Weekly Standard
When Nixon fell into disgrace, many felt that the presidency itself was tarnished. Yet Americans took comfort in the fact that the other two bastions of the Republic—the Legislature and Judiciary—maintained their dignity and did their job. How do things stand today? (The Ethics Centre, Carnegie Council, and Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program, audio only, April 2017)

The Soul of the First Amendment
Floyd Abrams, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Floyd Abrams, a noted lawyer and award-winning legal scholar specializing in First Amendment issues, examines the degree to which American law protects free speech more often, more intensely, and more controversially than anywhere else in the world, including democratic nations such as Canada and England. (Public Affairs Program, audio, video, and transcript, June 2017)

The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era
Akhil Reed Amar,Yale Law School
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
BC—before the Constitution—the history of the world was the history of kings, emperors, and tsars. AD—after the document—the world would never be the same again, says Constitutional law scholar Akhil Reed Amar. And the Constitution is particularly important in today's fraught political climate. (Public Affairs Program, audio, video, and transcript, October 2016)


THE DECLINE OF THE LIBERAL ORDER AND THE RISE OF POPULISM

Crisis of the Liberal Order
Leon Botstein and Walter Russell Mead, Bard College
James Ketterer, Bard College
What explains the global resurgence of populism and the rise of political actors on the right? And what are the effects on longstanding alliances, international institutions, and accepted norms? Don't miss this lively conversation with Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, and international affairs expert Walter Russell Mead. (Ethics Matter Program and Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program, audio, video, and transcript, May 2017)

Pankaj Mishra on "Our Age of Anger"
Pankaj Mishra, Essayist and Novelist
Devin T. Stewart, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
"I think the reason why so many people feel angry and disaffected is that too much has been promised to them in recent decades and the globalized economy has not delivered to large numbers of people on these promises," says Pankaj Mishra, in this discussion about his very timely book, Age of Anger: A History of the Present. (Asia Dialogues, audio and transcript, March  2017)

Alexander Görlach on Threats to Liberal Democracy
Alexander Görlach, Harvard University, Carnegie Council Senior Fellow
Stephanie Sy, Ethics Matter Host
In this wide-ranging and lively discussion, Alexander Görlach, founder of the debate magazine The European, tackles the rise of populism and the far right in Europe, Brexit, the results of the U.S. election, the refugee crisis, and more. (Ethics Matter Program, audio, video, TV show, and transcript, February 2017)

The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics
John B. Judis, National Journal
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
How exactly should we define populism? What led to its current resurgence in Europe and the United States, on both the right and the left? And in particular, how can we explain the Trump phenomenon? For answers, don't miss this fascinating discussion with author and journalist John Judis. (Public Affairs Program, audio, video, TV show, and transcript, February 2017)

What is Populism?
Jan-Werner Müller, Princeton University; Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna, Austria
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
At populism's core is a rejection of pluralism. "Populists, on the basis of their essentially anti-pluralist stance, always perform two exclusions: One at the level of the politics, parties, politicians, and elites; and the other at the level of the citizens themselves," explains Jan-Werner Müller. (Public Affairs Program, audio and transcript, November 2016)

Indonesia's Growing Islamist Populism
Marcus Mietzner, Australian National University
Devin T. Stewart, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
November and December 2016 saw mass demonstrations in Jakarta, the largest protests in Indonesia's history. The demonstrators demanded that the city governor, an ethnic Chinese and a Christian, be prosecuted and then arrested for blasphemy against Islam. What are the forces behind these confrontations and what will be the consequences? (Asia Dialogues, audio and transcript, December 2016)


DEMOCRACIES, BUT TO WHAT DEGREE?

"In Cambodia, 'democracy' is just a term . . ."
Sophorn Sek, Rights and Business Law Office, Cambodia
Devin T. Stewart, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Phnom Penh-based human rights lawyer Sophorn Sek discusses the state of his nation's governance in this eye-opening interview. From corruption and nepotism to suspicious murders of government critics to tension over the role of China, Cambodia is facing a challenging time. (Asia Dialogues, audio and transcript, April 2017)

A Question of Order: India, Turkey, and the Return of Strongmen
Basharat Peer, The New York Times
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Journalist Basharat Peer recounts the rise of two strongmen: Erdoğan in Turkey and Modi in India. What they have in common "is a lack of concern or respect for all liberal democratic values, whether it's rule of law, dissent, freedom of expression, or the rights of minorities." (Public Affairs Program, audio and transcript, March 2017)


ILLIBERAL DEMOCRACIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Tempations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a new Middle East
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institution
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
What if a group decides democratically that they don't want to be liberal—that they want an "illiberal democracy"? Shadi Hamid argues that repression originally compelled Islamists to moderate their politics. But ironically, democratic openings pushed them back to their original fundamentalism, leaving no space for liberal norms such as women's rights. (Public Affairs Program, audio, video, TV show, and transcript, April 2014)


THREATS TO DEMOCRACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE

The Grey War of Our Time: Information Warfare and the Kremlin's Weaponization of Digital Russian-Language News
Miranda Lupion, Winner of Carnegie Council's 2017 Student Research Conference
"I argue that from 2008 to 2014, Moscow improved its ability to capitalize on the benefits of digital news—namely the unlimited publication space of digital media—to increase the thematic reach and persuasiveness of its coverage," writes Miranda Lupion in this follow-up interview about her winning presentation for the Council's Research Conference. (Text interview, May 2017)

#Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media
Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard Law School
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
How is today's Internet driving political fragmentation, polarization, and even extremism—and what can be done about it? Legal scholar Cass Sunstein shares the results of his research. (Public Affairs Program, May 2017, audio, video, and transcript)

Shades of Red and Blue: Fake News, Free Speech, and the Media
Leon Botstein, Bard College; Matthew Continetti, Washington Free Beacon; Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, The Federalist; Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon; Salman Rushdie, Essayist and Novelist
All democracies have one thing in common: a need for legitimacy, which is ultimately derived from the free and informed consent of the people. How should governments reconcile freedom of speech with the pursuit of absolute truth and legitimacy? (The Ethics Centre, Carnegie Council, and Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program, April 2017, audio only)

Freedom of Expression in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Beyond
Ismail Einashe, Journalist
Alex Woodson, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Freelance journalist Ismail Einashe sees a dangerous backsliding of democracy and free media in sub-Saharan Africa, alongside an increase in Internet access and the influence of foreign media organizations. Are there parallels in the United States? (Audio and transcript, February 2017)

Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World
Timothy Garton Ash, University of Oxford
Joanne Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
In today's connected world—a "cosmopolis" dominated by the "four superpowers" Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon—what we need is to have more but also better free speech, declares Garton Ash. The West, particularly the U.S., should strive to promote global free speech, and we must foster a "robust civility" despite our differences. (Public Affairs Program, September 2016, audio, video, and transcript)