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IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture – Democratic Resilience in Challenging Times

March 11 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Image courtesy of Arnaud Jaegers on Unsplash

IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture by Professor Ian O’Flynn (Newcastle University)


Right around the world today, democracy is under threat.  While those threats can take different forms – populist leaders with seemingly little respect for democratic norms, the efforts of autocratic states to undermine democratic ways of life, and so forth – their effect is to unsettle, disconcert or even shock.  A democratic society’s capacity to successfully adapt to threats of this sort is often discussed under the heading of ‘democratic resilience’.  However, we continue to lack a clear definition of what this term actually means. 

In this public lecture, I offer and defend a definition of democratic resilience that is grounded in Jürgen Habermas’s (1986) ‘discourse theory of law and democracy’.  At the core of that theory is the idea of a productive dialogue between government and civil society about how our basic rights and liberties should be interpreted.  When democracy works well, our understanding of those rights and liberties becomes both more secure and inclusive.  But when democracy is under threat, our interpretations tend to become less generous and more exclusive.  It is not always easy to say what makes the difference, but a society’s capacity to sustain a sense of productive dialogue even in the face of unsettling democratic threats and challenges is likely to be key.   

 Against this theoretical backdrop, the lecture concludes with some thoughts about the relationship between democratic resilience and democratic reform with a specific focus on the case of the United Kingdom. 

This lecture is free and open to all.  Capacity in Cosin’s Hall is limited and registration to attend is required. Please book a place here. 


March 11
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Event Category:


Institute of Advanced Study, Cosin’s Hall, Durham University, Palace Green, DH1 3RL


Institute of Advanced Study

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