The Lee Lecture in Political Science and Government

26th February 2015, 5:00 pm

Four Crises of Democracy

Around the world, there is growing concern about the performance of democratic institutions. There have been similar ‘crises of democracy’ in the past. But not all crises are alike. Over the twentieth century, the United States suffered three distinct ‘crises of democracy’ – one concerned primarily with democratic accountability, one with mastery of social and economic forces, and one with discipline of the state itself.

These three types of crisis are evident in other countries today. But the current American crisis may be a new type. It is a crisis of anticipation, concerned mainly with large problems whose effects have not yet been realized. Like its predecessors, this fourth crisis may generate significant changes in American political institutions and culture. Such crises illustrate that our institutions are much more pliable than recent scholarship has suggested.