An Invitation to take part in a “world wide committee of democratic correspondence”

Dear friends:

I  am writing to invite you to take part in The Democracy Seminar, to subscribe to our Newsletter, and to join our “world wide committee of democratic correspondence.”

Just about everywhere, democracy is threatened. Our committee seeks to understand the origins of the threats, to analyze their dimensions and, most importantly, to exchange ideas and experiences about how to oppose them. From China, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Turkey to the United States, we have been engaging in deliberations among scholars, journalists and engaged citizens, raising questions, considering answers, working to expand our circle, fully dedicated to open critical exchange.

Our seminar has a long history. It was first conceived in Warsaw in 1984 by Adam Michnik as a clandestine exchange between Central European democratic oppositionists and critical democratic intellectuals and activists at The New School for Social Research. It was revived two years ago in response to the growing threats to democracy around the globe. 

The contrast between then and now is striking. The earlier group was made up of colleagues in Central Europe and the United States. Among the participants in Central Europe were independent minded scholars, journalists and political activists, who appreciated Western critical thought and were creating an independent, democratic cultural and political sphere in a politically repressive context. The participants in the U.S. were critics of the limitations of actually existing liberal democracies who appreciated the work of democratic oppositionists in the Soviet empire, both as it spoke to the conditions under which they lived and our own situation

Then, our immediate situations were strikingly different on each side of the “iron curtain.” Now, we are all in the same boat.

What is the relationship between neoliberalism and right wing populism?  How has the Covid–19 pandemic fostered global de-democratization? How has it made ever more clear the pernicious global problems of racism and xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia and economic inequality? From multiple perspectives and experiences, our goal is to examine such questions, so that “democrats of the world unite.”

See how we have been doing this by exploring the proceeding of our Democracy and the Pandemic conference in May. Also see the continuation of that conference as a webinar on Bastille Day, Democracy in a Time of Plague: Challenges & Opportunities in the Struggles Against Authoritarianism, Covid-19 and Racism, and a meeting of the Warsaw branch of the seminar, in which we discuss my ideas about the election campaign in the United States in comparative perspective.

Openness is our primary commitment: openness to alternative perspectives and experiences, openness to voices from around the world, in and out of universities, including both theorists and practitioners, using all available media: published reports, essays, letters and petitions (see the Democracy Seminar page on Public Seminar and the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, our institutional base), along with face to face meetings and conferences (in the age of pandemic via Zoom), and seminars (now webinars). 

I invite you to join us. Please start by subscribing to this newsletter. And if you have any questions or comments, or would like to propose a contribution to the seminar, please contact us at democracyseminar@newschool.edu

In solidarity,

Jeff

Jeffrey C. Goldfarb
Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology
New School for Social Research
Publisher, www.publicseminar.org,
Chair, Democracy Seminar

In the meantime, tell your friends!