"Crises of Democracy: Thinking in Dark Times"
Hannah Arendt Center's 10th Annual Fall Conference
Thursday, October 12, 2017 – Friday, October 13, 2017
10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Speakers(as of June 2017)
Professor Berkowitz is an interdisciplinary scholar, teacher, and writer. His interests stretch from Greek and German philosophy to legal history and from the history of science to images of justice in film and literature. He is the author of The Gift of Science: Leibniz and the Modern Legal Tradition; coeditor of Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics; editor of Revenge and Justice, a special issue of Law, Culture, and the Humanities; and a contributing editor to Rechtsgeschichte. His essays have appeared in numerous academic journals. Roger Berkowitz received his B.A. from Amherst College; J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley; and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.
In 1970s Tokyo, he acted in Kara Juro’s Jokyo Gekijo and participated in Maro Akaji’s butoh dancing company Dairakudakan, followed by a career in documentary filmmaking and photography. In the 1980s, he worked as a journalist, and spent much of his early writing career travelling and reporting from all over Asia.
Buruma now writes about a broad range of political and cultural subjects for major publications, most frequently for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Guardian, La Repubblica, NRC Handelsblad.
James S. Fishkin
Samantha Rose Hill
Walter Russel Mead
John Jeremiah Sullivan
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Marina van Zuylen
Linda Marie-Gelsomina Zerilli
Schedule(as of August 2017 - Subject to change)
Thursday, October 12
12:00 pm Is Protest Political
1:00 pm Lunch
1:15 pm (OPTIONAL) Breakout Session: Democracy and Elections
2:00 pm The Problem of the South
John Jeremiah Sullivan
Moderator: Roger Berkowitz
2:45 pm The Revolt of the Public
Moderator: Linda Zerilli
3:30 pm Break
4:00 pm Is Liberal Democracy Our Future?
Moderator: Samantha Hill
5:30 pm Art Activism and Democratic Action
Tania Bruguera in conversation with Galit Eilat
Moderator: Thomas Keenan
6:30 pm Wine and Cheese Reception
6:30 pm (OPTIONAL) Breakout Session
Friday, October 13
Led by the founders of Democracy in Crisis:
Baynard Woods, Brandon Soderberg, and Mary Finn
Location: Olin, Room 202
Civil Disobedience and Protest
Walter Russel Mead
Moderator: Shany Mor
ONLINE REGISTRATION IS CLOSEDIf you missed online registration, please do not worry. On Oct. 12th or 13th, please visit the On-Site Registration Table located in the Olin Hall Atrium and our student volunteers will assist you. We will not turn anyone away! However, if you wish to see a certain panel, we strongly recommend you arrive early!
Conference FeesThe admission fee for this two-day conference is a flat rate of $75.00 per person. Admission is FREE for:
- Members of the Hannah Arendt Center (see additional member benefits below)
- Bard College staff and faculty
- Bard College Students (Matriculated Students - does not include LLI)
MembersMembers receive complimentary admission for yourself and a guest. If you would like to become a member, or renew a membership, please click HERE. If you are unsure if your membership is current, please contact the Hannah Arendt Center at [email protected] Memberships are valid for one year.
LunchIf you ordered a boxed lunch, your lunch ticket will be in your name tag. Please pick up your name tag at the Registration Table. If you did not pre-order a boxed lunch, here's a list of local food options available and open to all guests:
WebcastOur 10th Annual Fall Conference can be viewed at the URL below.
Olin Concert Hall
35 Henderson Cir Dr
Annandale-On-Hudson, NY 12504
If you are driving, take Rt. 9G and enter onto campus using the west entrance with the stone sign for Bard College across from the Anne Cox Chambers Alumni/ae Center at Bard. After turning into Bard College, make a left at the Stop Sign, and Olin Hall will be on your right. Additionally, a security guard will be available at the Main Entrance to Bard College between 8:30 am and 11:00 am to assist drivers. Also, please check out Travel to Bard for more helpful hints.
Parking Is FreeThere are two main parking lots; One across from Olin and one south of Olin Hall -- Please park in either lot. Additionally, you may also park in the gravel lot across from the Stevenson Gymnasium off Annandale Road. Please click HERE to see venue map. The black objects represent Parking Lots.
Recommended Readings by our Speakers
Teju Cole, Open City
Masha Gessen, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
Arlie Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land
Roger Berkowitz, "Why Arendt Matters: Revisiting the Origins of Totalitarianism"
Ian Buruma, An Unhinged Democracy in America
James Fishkin, Town Halls by Invitation
James Fishkin, The Nation in a Room: turning public opinion into policy
Masha Gessen, "The Autocrat's Language"
Masha Gessen, Russia: The Conspiracy Trap
Masha Gessen, In Praise of Hypocrisy: The president makes a bittersweet concession to an American norm.
Martin Gurri, The Revolt of The Public and The “Age of Post-Truth”
Jan-Werner Müller (The article discusses conference speaker Marc Jongen), Behind the New German Right
Micah White, Occupy Activist Micah White: Time To Move Beyond Memes And Street Spectacles
Hannah Arendt, "Civil Disobedience" (especially Part III) from Crises of the Republic
Hannah Arendt, “Thoughts on Politics and Revolution” from Crises of the Republic
Walter Russell Mead, The Jacksonian Tradition
Resolved: Representative Democracy Has Failed
LOCATION: Bard College, Campus Center MPR
A public debate in conjunction with the annual Hannah Arendt Center Conference – “Crises of Democracy: Thinking In Dark Times” (October 12-13, 2017). This debate will feature both the Bard and West Point debate teams on mixed teams. Co-sponsored by the Bard Debate Union, The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities, the Center for Civic Engagement, and the Bard-West Point Exchange.
Free & Open to the Public
Questions: [email protected]
ContestThere will be a Student Opinion Contest in conjunction with The Hannah Arendt Center’s tenth annual fall conference "Crises of Democracy: Thinking in Dark Times." The author of the winning response will receive $500 and have the response featured on the Hannah Arendt Center blog. If appropriate, the response will also be printed in HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center.
1. All participants in this year's Thinking Challenge must currently be enrolled in a two- or four-year higher education institution (not open to graduate students). Entries may be submitted individually, or in groups of two [max].
2. Responses can be in the form of an essay (maximum 1,500 words), multimedia blog (maximum 1,500 words), video essays or GoAnimate projects (maximum 5 minutes), xtranormal animations (maximum 5 minutes), digital map, or other related formats. For an example of a video submission, please view the video shown below. You can also view the entries of past Thinking Challenge winners here, here, and here.
3. Essays must incorporate quotations, video, or reactions from at least one talk or panel at the Hannah Arendt Center’s 2017 Conference “Crises of Democracy” Students may attend the conference live at Bard College or view the talks via live webcast from the Arendt Center website. The Conference, "Crises of Democracy" will be held on Thursday and Friday, October 12-13, 2017.
4. Please email your completed entries to [email protected] by no later than noon on Monday, October 30th, 2017. Responses will be judged blindly by a panel of judges from the Arendt Center, including Roger Berkowitz and Samantha Hill. Winning responses should be bold, creative, and persuasive. If you have questions, please email Daniel Fiege, our Media Coordinator, at [email protected] Thank you, and good luck!
View a video submitted by Bard student and one of our past contest participants.
Miss our 10th Annual Fall Conference? Click the Webcast tab to be brought to the video of the entire conference. Or view a photo gallery of the conference here.
We are experiencing a worldwide rebellion against liberal democracy. In Hungary, Russia, Turkey and other countries across Europe, right- and left-wing parties flirt with authoritarian rule. In the United States, President Donald J. Trump channels the voices of the self-described disenfranchised. Representative governments everywhere are shown to be corrupt, inefficient, and undemocratic. The great political achievement of the modern era - stable representative democracy - is everywhere under attack.
Hannah Arendt knew that democracy is tenuous. In 1970 she famously wrote:
Democracy is weakened when citizens are encouraged to hand over the time-consuming work of self-government to professional politicians. Arendt was continuously critical of representative models of democracy that rely upon experts in place of participation, which is why she rooted the crisis of democracy in the dissipation of public power. The disempowerment of the people in representative democracy embraces a bourgeois preference to pursue individual interests, to be relieved of the duty of politics and public virtue. But as we have seen recently, this separation between citizens and government has only further weakened the principles of liberal, representative democracy.
“Representative government is in crisis today, partly because it has lost, in the course of time, all institutions that permitted the citizens’ actual participation, and partly because it is now gravely affected by the disease from which the party system suffers: bureaucratization and the two parties’ tendency to represent nobody except the party machines.”
Today, the authority and power of experts is waning. The elected politicians that represent the traditional institutions of democracy are being replaced by outsiders. The rise of networks with access to infinite information means that the authority of any one source is diminished. Expertise of the press is challenged by online news and social media. The authority of democratic government is undermined by accusations of corruption and bias. And the hypothetical claim of science to truth is diminished by the infinite multiplication of information. In all realms, power has shifted toward the masses of individuals who identify as outsiders. And they are organizing themselves in energetic communities based on eccentric beliefs impervious to wider standards of common sense and truth. In light of these crisis of democracy we are at risk of losing our common liberal pluralist community, a meaningfulness unity amongst real differences.
The crisis facing democratic regimes today is cause for serious concern; it is also an opportunity for deep reflection on questions and assumptions concerning liberal representative democracy. Instead of assuming a defensive posture and taking up arms to defend the status quo, our conference asks: How can we take advantage of this crisis to make democracy stronger?
Our two-day conference will seek to answer the following questions:
- Are we experiencing a crisis of democracy?
- Are we witnessing the rise of authoritarian or fascist governments?
- Does rule by experts and bureaucrats threaten democracy?
- How does the centralization of power contribute to the crisis of democracy?
- Does identity politics threaten or enable pluralist government?
- Does the information explosion render obsolete the authority of democratic institutions?
- What motivates us to take part in democratic processes?
- Is representative democracy an inherently unstable model of government?