How We Can Reinvent Our Social Contract
Thursday, September 30th, 2021, 7 p.m. CEST
This event was both in-person and online.
The Theater in Amerikahaus Munich
To watch the livestream on YouTube
Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences
Professor of Politics, Princeton University
Everyone knows that democracy is in trouble, but do we know what democracy actually is? In his latest work, political philosopher Jan-Werner Mueller, author of the widely acclaimed What Is Populism?, takes us back to basics.
He explains how democracy is founded on three vital principles: liberty, equality, and also uncertainty. The latter, he argues, is crucial for ensuring democracy's dynamic and creative character. Authoritarians, as well as Big Tech, seek to render politics (and individual citizens) predictable; democracy holds open the possibility that new ideas, movements and identities can be created.
Acknowledging fully the dangers posed by populism, by kleptocratic autocracies like Russia's and by the digital authoritarianism of Xi, Mueller also challenges the assumptions made by many liberals defending democracy in recent years. He shows how the secession of plutocratic elites in the West has undermined much of democracy's promise. In response, we need to re-invigorate our institutions, especially political parties and professional media, but also make it easier for citizens to mobilize.
Taking on many of the most difficult political questions we face, this book is a vital rethinking of what democracy is, and how we can reinvent our social contract.
For German readers, the book was released by Suhrkamp Verlag as Freiheit, Gleichheit, Ungewissheit: Wie schafft man Demokratie? Both the German and English editions will be available for purchase, and Prof. Müller will be available to sign books after the talk.
Jan-Werner Müller is Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences Professor of Politics at Princeton University. He studied at the Free University, Berlin, University College, London, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and Princeton University. From 1996 until 2003 he was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford; from 2003 until 2005 he was Fellow in Modern European Thought at the European Studies Centre, St. Antony’s College. Since 2005 he has been teaching in the Politics Department, Princeton University.
Winner of the 2019 Bavarian Book Prize, he is the author of several award-winning books, and his public affairs commentary and essays regularly appear the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Le Monde, as well as in the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, the New York Times, and Project Syndicate.
Follow Jan-Werner Müller's work:
Democracy Rules (2021)
What is Populism (2016)
Safeguarding Democracy Inside the EU: Brussels and the Future of Liberal Order (2013)
Contesting Democracy (2011)