McCourtney Institute lectures will explore American democracy's future

February 04, 2021
Anne Applebaum and Danielle Allen will discuss how citizens can defend and enhance American democracy despite increasing threats of authoritarianism. Applebaum will present a lecture Feb. 17; Allen will speak Feb. 25.

Anne Applebaum and Danielle Allen will discuss how citizens can defend and enhance American democracy despite increasing threats of authoritarianism. Applebaum will present a lecture Feb. 17; Allen will speak Feb. 25. Both events are sponsored by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy in the College of the Liberal Arts.

IMAGE: Photos provided

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Are American democracy’s best days in the past or still to come? Two speakers hosted by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy will address that question from different perspectives.

At 3 p.m. on Feb. 17, historian and journalist Anne Applebaum will present a lecture on her most recent book, “Twilight of Democracy,” in which she examines how authoritarianism has crept into countries and the world and why it could mean the downfall of liberal democracy.

“Everybody who founded and created democratic systems has always been aware of how fragile they can be,” Applebaum said in an interview with NPR. “They require something almost, you know, that goes against human nature. Namely, they require all of us to allow our political enemies to rule.”

Applebaum is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the Agora Fellow in Residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. In her lecture she will discuss how authoritarian and would-be authoritarian leaders in countries around the world use conspiracy theories, political polarization, social media and even nostalgia to change their societies.

At 4 p.m. on Feb. 25, political theorist Danielle Allen will discuss “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century,” a report commissioned by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The report focuses on opportunities to rebuild American democracy and the institutions that comprise it, despite the ongoing threat of authoritarian influences.

“The nation is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy that cannot be addressed by any single reform. Our political institutions, civil society, and political culture need interacting reforms and investment to launch a virtuous circle of empowerment and responsiveness," Allen said in an announcement about the report’s launch last summer. "Our common purpose is designed to establish a stronger foundation for self-government as the best route to safety and opportunity for all Americans."

Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and director of its Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Both lectures are free and open to the public. Visit democracy.psu.edu/virtual-events for more information and to register. 

Last Updated February 05, 2021