‘Rethinking Democracy’: designing strategies for resilience and renewal


It is easy to be complacent about democracy, to imagine that it has become permanent and irreversible. But in politics nothing is guaranteed to last for ever, and what seems solid and impregnable in one era can seem fragile and vulnerable in the next, argues Andrew Gamble, co-editor of a new collection, Rethinking Democracy. Democracy is not a finished state. It is a living process and if there is no longer the will or belief in its value then it may not endure. If we lose the art of active citizenship, we will lose the freedoms and rights which democracy has bestowed, he writes for Prospect:

We must find ways to renew and extend democratic culture. If that culture weakens, if the civilised management of disagreement is lost, then the will to sustain the institutions of democracy can decline also. For many citizens, governments appear accountable for less and less, and no longer deliver for them. Representative democracy can be renewed and enriched in ways that were not possible before, including through new digital media, but it also needs a culture of democratic citizenship, one that is pluralist and encourages civility. Without it the greatest risk is not that democracies will collapse but that they will steadily deteriorate. RTWT

Beyond two or three cases of major democratic rollback, in most EU states democracy does not need to be saved so much as be retuned and replenished, argues Carnegie Endowment analyst Richard Youngs:

Formal, institutional Europe may be behind the curve, but European citizens are far more active in designing strategies for democratic resilience and renewal. On-the-ground developments have already moved beyond the rather stale and overly repetitive debates about populism and its causes. …. Democratic regeneration will be a long and bumpy process, requiring multiple-level and often undramatic grassroots changes more than grand designs for new agencies and European relaunches that tend to accumulate like prologues to unwritten books.

Reawakening the Spirit of Democracy will address this question of democratic renewal head-on. Co-hosted by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins and the Renew Democracy Initiative, this conference will convene a diverse group of thought leaders [including several associates of the National Endowment for Democracy] who will examine and wrestle with the underlying threats to liberal democracy and propose strategies to reinvigorate it.

Conference participants include:

Yamiche Alcindor, CorrespondentPBS NewsHour

Anne ApplebaumWashington Post columnist and Professor of Practice, London School of Economics

21st Forum 2000 Conference

Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science, Barnard College, Columbia University

Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Eric Cantor, former United States Representative, Virginia

Ben Cardin, United States Senator, Maryland

Eliot Cohen, Executive Vice Dean, Johns Hopkins University

Ronald J Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University

Evelyn Farkas, Resident Senior Fellow, German Marshall Fund, Founding Partner Scarlet Oak Advisors

Michèle Fluornoy, Co-Founder and Managing Director, WestExec Advisors

Bill Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, Chairman, Spitzberg Partners

Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, New York University Stern School of Business

Heidi Heitkamp, former United States Senator, North Dakota

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia and Berggruen Fellow at Center for Advanced Studies, Stanford University

Garry Kasparov, Chairman, Renew Democracy Initiative

Bill Kristol, Founding Director, Defending Democracy Together

Mark Lasswell, Associate Op-Ed Editor, Washington Post

Edward Lucas, Senior Vice-President, Center for European Policy Analysis

Barbara Mikulski, former United States Senator, Maryland

Yascha Mounk, Associate Professor SAIS Johns Hopkins and SNF Agora Institute

Jennifer Rubin, Opinion Writer, Washington Post

Christopher Steele, former British Intelligence Officer

Bret StephensNew York Times Columnist

Pete Wehner, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center; Contributing Opinion Writer, New York Times

March 13, 2019 – March 14, 2019

A conference co-hosted by Renew Democracy Initiative and SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins. March 13: Evening Event – Canadian Embassy, Washington, DC
March 14: All Day – Peabody Library, Baltimore MD (Open to Public) RSVP

Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright’s new edited collection, Rethinking Democracy (Political Quarterly Monograph Series, 2019) is available online, with a series of launch events throughout the year.

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