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This June, the Humanities and Social Change Center Berlin will launch its new event format, the annual Walter-Benjamin-Lectures. The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor inaugurates the prominent series. In a sequence of three evening lectures (June 17th to 19th), Taylor will address “Democracy and its Crises”, covering various forms of democratic deterioration, such as political alienation, increasing inequality, xenophobia and polarization, as well as possible ways out of crisis.

The Benjamin-Lectures are named after the Berlin-born philosopher Walter Benjamin and dedicated to his intellectual integrity and political commitment in the face of historical catastrophe. Each year, inspired by the Amsterdam Spinoza-lectures as well as the “Adorno-Vorlesungen” in Frankfurt, the Benjamin-Lectures will bring one leading critical theorist to Berlin. His or her public lectures will allow for a broad audience to partake in the latest debates on social and political issues of core concern. Prior to the lectures, the invited speaker will hold the Walter-Benjamin-Chair at the HSC Center Berlin and spend up to three months in close cooperation with the HSC academic community.

The Humanities and Social Change Center Berlin was founded in 2018 at Humboldt-University, Berlin, and is directed by Rahel Jaeggi. Research at the Center focuses on the crises of democracy and capitalism, spanning from diagnostic observation to conceptual groundwork. Hosting event series, a fellowship-program, and multiple research projects, the Center is a place both for scholarly work and social engagement.

The Benjamin-Lectures take place in the Emil-Fischer-lecture hall at Humboldt-University, Berlin, at Hessische Strasse 1-2, each day at 6pm. There is no entry fee. Registration is not required.

June 17th “Losing Faith in Democracy”
Respondent: Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin, Ireland).

June 18th “Marketization and Polarization”
Respondent: Patrizia Nanz (IASS Potsdam, Germany).

June 19th “What can be done?”
Respondent: Zhang Shuangli (Fudan University, China).


Charles Taylor is one of the most profound thinkers of our age. His early work on the embeddedness of cognition in the life-world demarcated a paradigm shift in the epistemology of social science. Guided by his novel reading of Hegel, Taylor subsequently embarked on an extraordinary research program: to elucidate and overcome the contradictions of modernity in the light of modernity’s own development, drawing out its limitations and imbalances. This project is laid out in two monumental monographs, one on the history of the self and one on secularization. More recently, Taylor has brought the motif of obscured social grounds to bear on questions of democratic politics. He has traced progressive trajectories, yet also started to analyze how the disavowal of shared values, imaginaries, and social relations unleashes destructive tendencies. The Benjamin-Lectures will assemble these investigations, combining a trenchant diagnosis of current threats to democracy with an encompassing philosophical picture of our time.

Press inquiries are coordinated by the HSC Center. Please contact Susann Schmeißer.

Benjamin Lectures