Politics of the Present

Crises of Democracy at Columbia

Thursday, April 11, 2019

This symposium is one of many discussions on the “Crises of Democracy” hosted by a number of institutions in a variety of locations, including Reid Hall in Paris and Trinity College Dublin.  Panelists at Columbia will discuss issues affecting democracy across the globe, including "The Populist Appeal of Strongmen," "Weaponizing the Classics," and "Journalists at Risk." 

Border People

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Based on conversations and interviews from the South Bronx housing projects, Refugee Safe Houses on the Northern Border with Canada, and travels along the Southwestern Border and into Mexico, Dan Hoyle's newest piece of "journalistic theater" is his freshest and most urgent. Ten monologues of people who live on or across borders both literal and metaphorical, an intimate, raw, poignant, funny look at the borders we all negotiate in our everyday lives.

Why did a philosopher whose life was dedicated to reading, writing, and teaching decide so late in his life to engage himself in the world?

In current debates about Brexit, right wing populism, the crisis of democracy and the future of Europe Switzerland does not feature much, although it provides an intriguing case from a variety of angles. It is praised for its direct democracy and hailed as a model for Europe, yet it also receives sustained criticism as an opportunistic and self-serving tax haven for dictators and drug barons. It has one of the biggest and loudest right-wing populist parties in Europe, yet it integrates it fairly successfully into its system of consensus politics. One of its intriguing, yet under-discussed contradictions is that while it is arguably among the most untraumatized countries in history, it very effectively mobilizes the rhetoric of cultural trauma for its isolationist and xenophobic policies and for its wider identity narratives. 

David Autor (MIT) will use evidence from the worlds of economics and political science to examine the impact of economic change – and in particular the rising competition of foreign imports into the American market – on political polarization. Counties that were particularly exposed to foreign trade have become more likely to vote for the Republican candidate for president. The panel will address the question of economic and political responses to these trends that may have the potential to ameliorate political polarization.

Mario Small will discuss why the public discourse on poverty, inequality, and economic opportunity requires improving our qualitative, not just quantitative, literacy. He argues that the public discourse about these problems is undermined by an inability to communicate evidence about their causes and potential solutions. Some of this evidence is statistical, but much of it stems from qualitative studies about the lives and communities of the disadvantaged. He argues that an enhancement of qualitative reasoning would allow more serious consideration of the evidence, enhance public discourse, and lead to a more effective politics.   

Panels will convene on two campuses in Dublin and New York City to discuss the current political climate. The first portion of the event (November 6-7) will take place at Trinity, College Dublin and the second portion (November 9-10) will be at Columbia.

Coming To Terms With A Polarized Society "Professional Journalism, Polarization, Post-Truth, and Post-Trump" Michael Schudson, Professor of Journalism, Columbia University. Panelists: Leonard Downie, Jr., Weil Family Professor of Journalism, Arizona State University; Former Executive Editor, Washington Post Bill Keller, Editor-in-Chief, The Marshall Project; Former Executive Editor, New York Times


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