Theme Panel: The Crisis of Democracy

The Crisis of Democracy: A Roundtable of Political Science Thought

As a ‘crisis of democracy’ has taken shape on the world stage in recent years, political scientists and political theorists have confronted a profound intellectual challenge on questions of considerable political consequence.

What are the underlying causes of this crisis? Do they emanate from the dynamics of liberal democratic regime itself? Are they the effects of stresses upon that regime by the decimation of institutions of civil society, such as organized religion and organized labor, and by changes in the international political economy, such as globalization and increasing inequality? To what extent have the constellation of economic and political policies that are often identified as ‘neo-liberalism’ — austerity, privatization of public goods and institutions, deregulation, the promotion of markets, ‘free trade’ — played a critical role? How important are the different dimensions of this crisis, from the decay of political parties and the dysfunctionality of government to the emergence of new populisms and the rise of conspiracy theory and attacks on the ‘other,’ particularly racial others? How do these dimensions interact with each other?

To begin a conversation on these questions, Dissent Magazine published a special section in which contributors addressed these questions. This roundtable would bring these contributors to continue this conversation.


Leo E. Casey, Albert Shanker Institute (Chair)
Michael Walzer (Presenter)
Sheri Berman, Barnard College, Columbia University (Presenter)
Nancy L. Rosenblum, Harvard University (Presenter)
Jeffrey C. Isaac, Indiana University, Bloomington (Presenter)
Seyla Benhabib, Yale University (Presenter)