Scholars Share Research on When Democracy Breaks

On February 8th and 9th, the Tobin Project’s Institutions of Democracy initiative held a meeting as part of our ongoing work on When Democracy Breaks. This project seeks to explore past moments of democratic crisis and identify the factors that led to the erosion of important institutions, norms, and values in each case. By investigating eleven historical and contemporary episodes of democratic decline, we hope to gain a better understanding of why democracies falter and, in turn, how we can sustain a robust democracy over time.

Tobin launched this inquiry at a meeting in September 2018, where scholars shared and workshopped proposals for new research. Following the meeting, contributors developed their projects with input from the inquiry’s co-chairs: Archon Fung (Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government, Harvard Kennedy School), David Moss (Paul Whiton Cherington Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School), and Arne Westad (S.T. Lee Professor of U.S.-Asia Relations, Harvard Kennedy School).

At the most recent meeting, sixteen historians and political scientists presented and received feedback on drafts of their working papers, each of which explores a different moment of democratic crisis, including the collapse of Weimar Germany, the 1973 Chilean coup d’état, the Indian Emergency in the 1970s, and mounting restrictions on democratic participation in the U.S. South during the lead-up to the Civil War. The meeting also sought to identify themes that cut across the papers, with the goal of determining how these cases inform our broader understanding of how democracy actually works.

We are excited by the focus and rigor of these discussions and look forward to working with contributors as they prepare their papers for publication, potentially as an edited volume.

News Category: 
Institutions of Democracy
Tobin Project News