Bard conference asks: Is there a worldwide rebellion against liberal democracy?

The U.S. is the world’s oldest democracy. The founders were keenly aware of democracy’s instability, warning against factionalism and demagoguery and founding a system based on compromise toward a common good. That foundation is being tested.

“The great political achievement of the modern era – stable representative democracy – is everywhere under attack,” write the organizers of the tenth annual International Conference on Crises of Democracy, to be hosted by the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College on Thursday, and Friday, October 12 and 13 in Olin Hall. “Hannah Arendt knew that democracy is tenuous. In 1970 she famously wrote: ‘Representative government is in crisis today, partly because it has lost, in the course of time, all institutions that permitted the citizens’ actual participation, and partly because it is now gravely affected by the disease from which the party system suffers: bureaucratization and the two parties’ tendency to represent nobody except the party machines.’”

If this sounds familiar, the conference organizers direct your attention to a worldwide rebellion against liberal democracy taking place in Hungary, Russia, Turkey, other countries across Europe and closer to home as well. “In the United States, president Donald J. Trump channels the voices of the self-described disenfranchised. Representative governments everywhere are shown to be corrupt, inefficient and undemocratic.”

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The two-day conference, “Crises of Democracy: Thinking in Dark Times,” asks: Is there a worldwide rebellion against liberal democracy? It features authors Teju Cole, Masha Gessen and John Jeremiah Sullivan, as well as New York Review of Books editor Ian Buruma, Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead, 2016 congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, Occupy Wall Street co-creator Micah White and artist Tania Bruguera. For a full conference schedule, biographies of featured speakers and registration information, visit http://hac.bard.edu/con2017. For more information or questions about the conference, e-mail arendt@bard.edu or call (845) 758-7878. Bard College is located in Annandale-on-Hudson.