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The Crisis of Democracy Conference

Thursday, Oct 05, 2017 | 3:00pm

Washington Court Hotel, Atrium Ballroom
525 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Thursday, Oct. 5, 3:00 pm to Friday, Oct. 6 5:00 pm
The conference is free, but registration (below) is required.


We are experiencing an organic crisis of democracy that is international in scope. In response, a conference is being convened that draws together intellectuals and activists from across the globe to examine and explore different dimensions of that crisis. The speakers will venture into a deeper analysis of the political forces and dynamics at work, with an eye to identifying opportunities to strengthen democratic institutions and democratic practices.

Speakers will explore such themes as the:

  • Relationship between growing economic inequality and the loss of political trust in the capacity and purpose of government;
  • Intersections of race, class, religion, ethnicity and immigration in Trumpism, Brexit and other populist movements of the right;
  • Decay of political parties and civil society (declines in organized religion, organized labor, and community and neighborhood associations), on the one hand, and the rise of authoritarianism, on the other;
  • Relationship between protest movements, political action and power in the resistance to authoritarianism;
  • Ways in which a number of reactionary initiatives, from voter suppression initiatives to attacks on immigration and immigrants, are centered on redefining citizenship in exclusionary and restrictive ways; and
  • Most effective ways for citizen activists to organize in defense of democracy, both in the United States and abroad.

Panels Include:

THURSDAY, October 5:

The Crisis of Democracy: Global Perspectives

Han Dongfang, leader of independent unions in 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, China Labour Bulletin

Mac Maharaj, former cellmate of Nelson Mandela, African National Congress of South Africa

Alina Polyakova, Brookings Institution


Education, Civil Society and the Defense of Democracy

Shuli Dichter, Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel

Rob Goodman, Columbia University

Tshepo Motsepe, Education Equality, South Africa


FRIDAY, October 6:

A Conversation on American Unions and the Crisis of Democracy

Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union

Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers


The Populist Challenge in the Crisis of Democracy: Class, Race, Gender

John Judis, Talking Points Memo

Bob Kuttner, American Prospect

Sarah Leonard, The Nation

Phil Thompson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Maurice Weeks, Action Center on Race and the Economy


The Political Dynamics of 21st Century State Authoritarianism – I

Sheri Berman, Columbia University

Colin Crouch, University of Warwick, Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung

Joseph Schwartz, Temple University


The Political Dynamics of 21st Century State Authoritarianism – II

Jazz Hooks, Democratic Socialists of America

Anton Shekhovstov, “Explorations of the Far Right” book series; Institute for Human Sciences, Austria

Ken Surin, Duke University

Fred Van Leeuwen, Education International


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