Theme Panel: Author Meets Critics: “How Democracies Die”

Authors Meet Critics: “How Democracies Die”

Friday, August 30, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

(Presenter) Christopher S. Parker, University of Washington; (Presenter) Daniel F. Ziblatt, Harvard University; (Chair) Amel F. Ahmed, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; (Presenter) Steven Levitsky, Harvard University; (Presenter) Tom Ginsburg, University of Chicago; (Presenter) Gretchen Helmke, University of Rochester; (Presenter) Frances McCall Rosenbluth, Yale University; (Presenter) Ian Shapiro, Yale University; (Presenter) Michael Kazin, Georgetown University

Session Description:
“How Democracies Die” is a book that takes as its central concern the question “could American democracy be in danger?”. Drawing on decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela to the American South during Jim Crow, Levitzky and Ziblatt argue that many of the warning signed of democratic decay are already there.

Democracy no longer ends with a big bang, they maintain, but can die quietly, subverted by the very leaders who were elected to sustain it. With a view to the current political turmoil in the United States, they warn against that dangers of polarization and the erosion of the soft-guardrails that allow for democratic competition.

Critics on both the left and the right, however, have challenged the claims that the current moment represents an unusual crisis, with many questioning whether or not this indeed represents a significant break with the past. Some have also pointed to the exclusionary basis of past periods of democratic consensus and the need to grapple seriously with these exclusions rather than simply work to avoid polarization. The panel brings together a range of perspectives on the question of how democracies die and whether indeed American democracy is at risk.