Yale Political Science Department: “The Crisis of Democracy: Conceptual and Institutional Perspectives”

Event time: 
Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 2:00pm to 5:00pm
Friday, January 26, 2018 - 9:30am to 5:30pm
Whitney Humanities Center, Room 208 See map
53 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06520
Event description: 

The Yale University Department of Political Science presents a two day conference.

“The Crisis of Democracy: Conceptual and Institutional Perspectives.”

Everywhere today, representative democracy is on the defensive. In the Western world, the recent U.S. presidential election and the result of the Brexit referendum are only the most striking illustrations of a larger phenomenon. Across the West, there is widespread backlash against what people have come to see as a rigged game controlled by elites, which has, in turn, triggered new waves of populism. Democracy is on the defensive beyond the Western world, as well. Soon after the failure of democratic nation-building attempts in Iraq, some observers diagnosed a global democratic recession. Meanwhile, at the level of ideas, some are emboldened to reject the ideal of democracy as popular control or even democracy itself. Others tout China and Singapore—so-called “meritocratic” or “technocratic” systems—as the new path forward. As the century of Chinese superpower unfolds, democracy, both as a set of institutions and as a normative ideal, appears to be losing ground. This conference aims to bring a number of conceptual and institutional perspectives to bear on this widely diagnosed crisis of democracy and to consider possible solutions.

Please join us for panels on the following topics:

  • The Crisis of Democracy
  • Responses to Populism
  • Institutional Solutions
  • Negotiating the Boundaries of the Demos
  • Rethinking Democracy in the Global Age


Thursday, January 25, Opening session: 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm

2:00 to 2:15 pm: Welcome remarks by Seyla Benhabib and Hélène Landemore

2:15 to 5:00 pm: Opening Panel: The Crisis of Democracy (with a 15-minute break in the middle)

  • Jeffrey Isaac, “Defending Liberal Democracy in Illiberal Times”
  • Christopher Achen, “Managing Democratic Crises: Some Empirical Foundations”
  • Phillip Thompson, “The Imperative of Change: Why We Are Not Returning to Post-WWII Normalcy”
  • Frances Rosenbluth and Ian Shapiro, “Democratic Competition: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

Chair: Susan Stokes
Discussants: Susan Stokes and Jacob Hacker

Friday, January 26

9:30 to 11:00 am: Second Panel: Responses to Populism

  • Ayşen Candaş, “Advanced Populism: The Turkish Case and Its Lessons for Beginners”
  • John McCormick, “Populism, Plutocracy and the Contemporary Crisis of Democracy”
  • Melissa Schwartzberg, “Democratic Equality in the Age of Trump”
  • Rahul Sagar, “Can the World Be Saved from Democrats?”

Chair and discussant: Judith Resnik

11:00 to 11:30: Break

11:30 to 1:00 pm: Third Panel: Institutional Solutions

  • Arash Abizadeh, “Representation, Bicameralism, and Sortition: Reconstituting the Senate as a Randomly Selected Citizen Assembly”
  • Jeffrey Green, “The Problem of Institutional Reform: The Regulation of the Most Advantaged”
  • Isabelle Ferreras, “It’s the Corporation, Stupid!: The Bicameral Firm as a Transition Plan Toward Economic Democracy”
  • Robert Post, “Reform and Diagnosis”

Chair and discussant: David Grewal

2:00 to 3:30 pm: Fourth Panel: Negotiating the Boundaries of the Demos

  • Rainer Bauböck, “Globalization, New Technologies, and the Future of Democratic Citizenship”
  • Bernard Harcourt, “When A Liberal Democratic Land of Immigrants Closes Its Borders: The Ethical and Political Implications”
  • Larry Lessig, “Why We (the People) Can’t Help But Embarrass Democracy”
  • Diana Mutz, “Globalization, Public Opinion, and Objectification of the Other”

Chair and discussant: Seyla Benhabib

3:30 to 4:00 pm: Break

4:00 to 5:30 pm: Fifth and final panel: Rethinking Democracy in the Global Age

  • Yves Sintomer, “Condemned to Post-Democracy?”
  • Archon Fung, “Power, Organization, and Liberation”
  • John Keane, “Humbling Power”
  • Hélène Landemore, “The Principles of Open Democracy”

Chair and discussant: Karuna Mantena


  • Arash Abizadeh, McGill University
  • Christopher Achen, Princeton University
  • Rainer Baublock, European University Institute
  • Seyla Benhabib, Yale University
  • Aysan Candan, Boğaziçi University
  • Isabelle Ferrares, University of Louvain
  • Archon Fung, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Jeffrey Green, University of Pennsylvania
  • David Singh Grewal, Yale Law School
  • Jacob Hacker, Yale University
  • Bernard Harcourt, Columbia University
  • Jeffrey Isaac, Indiana University
  • John Keane, University of Sydney
  • Hélène Landemore, Yale University
  • Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School
  • Karuna Mantena, Yale University
  • John McCormick, University of Chicago
  • Diana Mutz, University of Pennsylvania
  • Robert Post, Yale Law School
  • Judith Resnik, Yale Law School
  • Frances Rosenbluth, Yale University
  • Ian Shapiro, Yale University
  • Melissa Schwarzburg, New York University
  • Rahul Sagar, New York University Abu Dhabi
  • Yves Sintomer, Paris 8 University
  • Susan Stokes, Yale University
  • J. Phillip Thompson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This conference is hosted by Professors Hélène Landemore and Seyla Benhabib. Please visit the conference website here. Both days are open to the public. The event is generously funded by the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund, the Institute for Social and Policy Studies and the Whitney Humanities Center.

Open to: 
General Public