Benjamin-Lectures: Democracy and its Crises

June 17th–19th, 6.00 pm – 8.00 pm
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Emil-Fischer-Hörsaal, Hessische Str. 1–2, 10115 Berlin

Last June, the Humanities and Social Change Center Berlin launched its new event format, the annual Walter-Benjamin-Lectures. The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor inaugurated the prominent series. In a sequence of three evening lectures, Taylor addressed “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.

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 assembled these investigations, combining a trenchant diagnosis of current threats to democracy with an encompassing philosophical picture of our time.

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).

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. Here you can find more information on the format.



Benjamin-Lectures: Democracy and its Crises