What's happening to democracy?

John Keane

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Renowned political theorist Professor John Keane returned to the University of Sydney stage to deliver the Sydney Ideas public lecture entitled 'What's Happening to Democracy?'

Professor John Keane is Professor of Politics at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Westminster University, London, and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. The Times of London has ranked him as one of Britain's leading political thinkers and writers whose work has "a world-wide importance" while the ABC describes him as one of Australia's "great intellectual exports".

Just over a decade ago, talk of the global triumph of democracy beamed around the world. Some still speak in that way, but democracies everywhere are now under pressure. Enthusiasm is waning for politicians and parties and governments' cynical use of media. There are new forms of public grumbling and protest and rising tides of anti-democratic behaviour, from individuals and groups and states. A new underclass of poor people and war and rumours of war have returned to the heart of all democracies. And their citizens are confronted with new problems - like the wilful damage of the biosphere and the promotion of democracy across borders - for which there are no easy solutions.

In his Sydney Ideas Public Lecture, John Keane shows how all these trends reveal a general confusion about what democracy is, why it is a good thing, what it could be and what can be done to build on its achievements.