Antonio Berni, Manifestacion

What is Democracy?

Instructor: Rafael Khachaturian
620 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

The definition of democracy seems simple—rule of the people. But what a democracy looks like—and what it should look like—is a widely contested, and perennially relevant, question. Is it strictly a matter of institutions, of the right to vote and to representation? What bearing do social and economic conditions have on democracy conceptually and as a functioning reality? Are capitalism and private property the very bedrock of democracy, or are they in some fundamental sense its antagonists? How is a democracy to be constituted in a modern nation state? How are the rights of minorities to be balanced with the prerogatives of the majority? Is the United States meaningfully democratic—and, if not, how might it become so?

This course turns to some key works in modern democratic theory in an attempt to come to a critical understanding of democracy as it’s currently said to exist. In it we’ll read both classical authors, including Aristotle, Rousseau, and Toqueville, and a range of modern thinkers—from the conservative (Joseph Shumpeter) to the liberal (Robert Dahl, John Dewey) to the radical (Sheldon Wolin, Chantal Mouffe). As we proceed, we’ll ask and hope to answer: whatare the prerequisites for a political regime to be considered democratic? How do democratic procedures and institutions relate to democracy as a normative ideal? And what is the relationship between the (related but not identical) philosophies of democracy and liberalism?

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:00-9:00pm
November 27 — December 18, 2018
4 weeks


Registration Closed

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