Is There a Crisis of Democracy?
Co-presented with the Sydney Ideas the Australian Research Council and the Sydney Social Justice Network
Professor Wolfgang Merkel, Director of the Democracy and Democratisation research program at the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB) and Professor of Political Science at the Humboldt University Berlin
18 October 2012
Public talk of a deepening crisis of democracy is ubiquitous today in Europe, the United States, Latin America and elsewhere. Inspired by Joseph Schumpeter’s classic Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Wolfgang Merkel examines whether and to what extent there is evidence for such a crisis. In a bold and broad-ranging look at the great conflicting trends of our time, he probes such phenomena as the long-term impact of migration, growing social inequality, the decline of political parties, austerity politics, individualisation and the rise of the critical citizen. With an eye on topical events, such as the unresolved Eurozone crisis, Merkel asks whether these powerful trends are having irreversibly ruinous effects on democracy or whether, on the contrary, these trends may turn out to be triggers for improving the methods and substance of democracy as we know it.
Professor Wolfgang Merkel is Germany’s best-known political scientist. He is Director of the “Democracy and Democratisation” research program at the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB) and Professor of Political Science at the Humboldt University Berlin. He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and advisor to many European governments. He is also a non-party member of the Basic Values Commission of the Executive Committee of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and a member of the social sciences review board of the German Research Foundation (DFG). You can find more information on Professor Merkel online here.
Political Responses to Religious Diversity in Ancient and Modern India
By Professor Rajeev Bhargava, Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, India
20 September 2012
Religious Diversity has been part of India’s natural landscape. At no time in India’s history was an attempt made to eradicate it. After the social and intellectual turbulence associated with the ‘axial turn’, the great Indian emperor Asoka laid the foundations of state policy towards religious diversity that was to have a lasting impact on Indian political life.
Rajeev will argue that this response should not be termed ‘religious tolerance’ and that it continues to have great contemporary relevance. Rajeev then turns to another political response, over 2000 years later. Religious diversity became a major problem in the nineteenth century. A vicious majority-minority syndrome was set in motion and engulfed India. Apart from dividing the subcontinent into two nations, it stalled several freedom and equality centred reforms. Modern Indian secularism developed in response to this severe challenge. At a time when peoples of different faiths are thrown together with virtually no history of common life, both these political responses might hold together.
Professor Rajeev Bhargava did his BA (Hons) in Economics from the University of Delhi and M.Phil and D.Phil from Oxford University. He taught between 1979 and 2005 at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and University of Delhi. Currently he is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. Bhargava has taught in many universities abroad and has been a visiting fellow at Harvard, Columbia, Belfast, Bristol and Jerusalem. He has also been a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin and Institute of Human Sciences, Vienna. His publications include Individualism in Social Science; Secularism and its Critics; What is Political Theory and Why Do We Need It?; and The Promise of India’s Secular Democracy. His contributions to political theory, particularly in debates on secularism, constitutionalism and reconciliation between communities, are internationally recognised.
- Listen to a talk by Professor Rajeev Bhargava in IOSARN Annual Lecture on Secularism, UTS, Australia, 21st September 2012
Does secularism work? The successes and failures of Indian secularism
Politics at the End of the World: A Public Forum on the Future of Antarctica
Co-Hosted by Sydney Ideas and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
13 September 2012
Listen to the podcast (MP3,1 hour 38 mins, 44.9Mb)
This unusual public forum addresses current political developments in Antarctica and their long-term global significance. The speakers, leading practitioners and prominent scholars from several walks of life, will address such questions as: Is Antarctica the first continent to go beyond the modern doctrine of sovereignty and, if so, is it relevant for the way we think about such matters as the global commons and how the world should be governed in the 21st century? How defective are the governing arrangements of the continent? Are they in need of serious reform? What can citizens learn from current scientific research in Antarctica?
The public forum will also pay close attention to the political challenges facing Antarctica, including damage to the local ecosystems, rivalries among states and growing pressures to open up the continent to mining operations, tourism and bio-prospecting.
The panel will be chaired by Professor John Keane, Director of the newly-founded Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR) and Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney
- Bob Brown was elected to the Senate in 1996, after 10 years as an MHA in Tasmania's state parliament. In his first speech in the Senate, Bob raised the threat posed by climate change. Government and opposition members laughed at his warning of sea level rises and it has taken 10 years for them to finally begin to acknowledge the causes and effects of climate change. Bob was re-elected to the Senate in 2001. Following the election of four Greens senators in 2004, Bob became parliamentary leader of the Australian Greens in 2005. Bob stepped down as Leader of the Australian Greens, and then retired from the Senate in June 2012.
- Robyn Eckersley is a Professor in Political Science in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Coordinator of the Faculty of Arts Master of International Relations Program. She has published widely in the fields of global environmental politics, political theory and international relations, with a special focus on the politics of climate change. Her books include Environmentalism and Political Theory (1992);Political Theory and the Ecological Challenge (2006, co-editor); and more recentlyResponsibility (2012, co-editor, with Ghassan Hage as lead editor) and Why Human Security Matters (2012, co-editor).
- Jeff Hansen is Australian Director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organisation. Their mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Jeff joined Sea Shepherd in 2006 as a ground support volunteer and was invited to serve on board the M/Y Steve Irwin during 2007-2008 Antarctic Whale Defence Campaign, after which he was appointed the Australian Director.
- Gillian Triggs is the current president of the Australian Human Rights Commission (HRC). She is a Public International lawyer and a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria. She was previously Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Sydney. She has published papers and books on the World Trade Organisation, Energy and Resources Law, Law of the Sea, Territorial Sovereignty, Jurisdiction and Immunity, International Criminal Law, International Environmental Law and Human Rights.
Italy in the European Crisis: Problems and Prospects
Co-Hosted by Sydney Ideas and Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR)
By Professor Paul Ginsborg, chair of Contemporary European History at the University of Florence
11 September 2012
As the crisis of the European Union continues to evolve, it is important to analyse the contribution of each of its member states, and that of the larger states in particular. Italy occupies a special role. It was one of the founder members of Common Market way back in 1957, and its economy has remained one of the largest in the Union. Yet it has never played a role in Europe’s politics that corresponds to its economic weight, and all too often has simply toed a line dictated by the Franco-German axis. Historically speaking, there are at least two major reasons for this.
One has been the poor quality of the Italian ruling political elite which, with few exceptions, has been intensely inward-looking and often corrupt. The other has been the failings of the Italian public administration which has led Italy for many years to commit the most infringements of European law and to suffer the greatest delays in putting European decisions into practice. The low-point of Italy’s presence in Europe came with the governments of Silvio Berlusconi and, in particular, with Berlusconi’s own performance at the European parliament in July, 2003. However, more recently Mario Monti has replaced him as the head of government , and Mario Draghi has become president of the Central European Bank. Are the two Marios, both highly professional economic experts, capable of initiating a new era in Italy’s relations with Europe?
Paul Ginsborg is a leading authority on contemporary Italy. He taught European Politics at Cambridge University, before moving to Italy in 1992 to take up the chair of Contemporary European History at the University of Florence. Among his many works is a biography of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (2003), which reached the top of the Italian non-fiction bestseller charts, the Politics of Everyday Life (2005) and Italy and Its Discontents: Family, Civil Society, State (2006). In recent years he has been at the forefront of Italian civil society's mobilisation in defence of democracy.
Living with Climate Changes
Co-presented with the Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society in partnership with the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law and the Environmental Humanities Group at the University of Sydney
By Professor Dale Jamieson, Director of Environmental Studies at New York University
20 August 2012
Listen to the podcast (MP3,43 mins, 20.20Mb)
Climate change is occurring and is effectively irreversible on time scales that are meaningful to us. Our failure to prevent or even to respond significantly to climate change reflects the impoverishment of our systems of practical reason, the paralysis of our politics, and the limits of our cognitive and affective capacities. As a result of our failure, the physical conditions of our existence are likely to become more trying. Virtually everything that matters to us in human culture and civilization occurred in a 10,000 year period in which the Earth was extraordinarily quiet and planetary conditions unusually stable. This was likely to change in any case, but it is particularly tragic that we are currently the major force in their disruption.
In his presentation for Sydney Ideas Dale Jamieson will provide some consolation and motivation in the face of these sobering realities. Perhaps more than ever it matters what we do. The rate and extent of climate change is still to some extent under our control. It matter how much and how quickly we emit, and in a radically unequal world it matters who does the emitting. It also matters whether and how we adapt and who bears the costs. Most of all it matters how we and our children will find meaning in a strange world that we have made.
Dale Jamieson is Director of Environmental Studies at New York University, where he is also Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy, and Affiliated Professor of Law. Formerly he was Henry R. Luce Professor in Human Dimensions of Global Change at Carleton College, and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he was the only faculty member to have won both the Dean's award for research in the social sciences and the Chancellor's award for research in the humanities.
Dr Jamieson is the author of Ethics and the Environment: An Introduction(2008), and Morality's Progress: Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature (2002). He is also the editor or co-editor of eight books. He is on the editorial boards of several journals including Environmental Values; Environmental Ethics; Science, Technology, and Human Values; He is currently writing a book on the moral and political challenges of climate change, a topic on which he has worked for more than twenty-five years.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the History of Cosmopolitanism
Co-Hosted by Sydney Ideas and Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR)
By Professor Samuel Moyn, History, Columbia University
8 August 2012
Listen to the podcast (MP3,1 hour 29 mins, 82.0Mb)
This talk revisits the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) with an eye to judging its place in the history of cosmopolitanism. Typically, it is read as the fulfillment of cosmopolitan striving. I argue that since various cosmopolitanisms have competed through recorded history, the UDHR should be regard as expressing one universalist vision among others. The puzzle from the present day is that it was so peripheral to its contemporaries. The talk investigates why.
Samuel Moyn is a Professor of History at Columbia University. His most recent book, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010) has been described as ‘the most important work on the history of human rights yet to have been written’ (Paul Kahn, Yale University), a ‘provocatively revisionist history’ (G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs) and a ‘brilliant and bracing new book’ (Yehudah Mirsky, Democracy).
He is a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), the recipient of Guggenheim and American Council of Learned Societies fellowships, and the winner of numerous prizes for teaching and research. He is currently the Irving S Ribicoff Visiting Professor of Law at Yale University, has lectured at the Columbia Law School and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, and will teach at Harvard Law School in 2013.