Past Event

Celebrating Recent Work by Jean Louise Cohen and Andrew Arato

April 28, 2022
4:15 PM - 5:15 PM
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Celebrating Recent Work by Jean Louise Cohen and Andrew Arato

Populism and Civil Society: The Challenge to Constitutional Democracy


Register here for virtual attendance via Zoom webinar.

Register here for in-person attendance (Linsday Rogers Room). In-person attendace is for Columbia Univesity affiliates with "green passes" only. Reception to follow panel.

From the co-authors of the classic Civil Society and Political Theory, Populism and Civil Society offers an empirically informed, systematic theoretical analysis of the political challenges posed by contemporary populism to constitutional democracies.

Populism and Civil Society provides a political assessment and critical theory of the significance of what is now a global phenomenon: the growing populist challenge to constitutional democracy. Andrew Arato and Jean L. Cohen examine the challenge it presents in terms of its four main organizational forms: socio-political movement, political party, government, and regime. They focus in particular on the tense relationship of populism to democracy and of populism to constitutionalism. Without presupposing the authoritarian logic of the phenomenon in the definition, the book demonstrates it through the reconstruction of the main elements used by advocates to identify populism. To be sure, the authoritarian logic of populism is not realized in every instance of it, and the book analyses why this is so. Across modern history, many populist governments have in fact been "hybrid" regimes, blending authoritarian elements and residual democratic forms. Populism on its own, however, is a form of abusive or instrumental "constitutionalism" that typically relies on the alleged permanence of the quasi-revolutionary constituent power. The book concludes by outlining a non- and anti-populist project of democratization and social justice, distinguishing between the "popular" and the "populist" and offering a program that is nourished by the plurality of democracies and which rescues some of left populism's more benevolent "host ideologies."

About the Authors:

Jean Cohen (Ph.D., New School for Social Research, 1979) is the Nell and Herbert M. Singer Professor of Political Thought and Contemporary Civilization. She teaches contemporary political and legal theory; continental political thought; rights, religion and constitutional democracy; contemporary civilization, critical theory, and international political theory. Professor Cohen is the author of numerous books and articles including Class and Civil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory (University of Massachusetts Press, 1982); Civil Society and Political Theory (co-authored with Andrew Arato) (MIT Press, 1992); Regulating Intimacy: A New Legal Paradigm (Princeton University Press, 2002); and Globalization and Sovereignty: Rethinking Legality, Legitimacy and Constitutionalism (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Professor Cohen's areas of interest are sovereignty, human rights, religion and democratic constitutionalism, and gender and the law. Her current work is focused on democratic constitutionalism and the discourse of religious freedom: the challenges that "accommodation" and religious legal pluralism pose to liberalism, democratic legitimacy, the rule of law and constitutional democracy.

About the speakers:

Mabel Berezin is a comparative sociologist whose work explores the intersection of political institutions and cultural meanings with an emphasis on challenges to democratic cohesion and solidarity in Europe and the United States.  She is the author of Making the Fascist Self: The Political Culture of Interwar Italy which was awarded the J. David Greenstone Prize by the American Political Science Association and which Choice named an “Outstanding Academic Book of 1997;”   Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Culture, Society and Populism in the New Europe; and co-editor with Martin Schain of Europe without Borders: Remapping Territory, Citizenship, and Identity in a Transnational Age. Berezin’s research lies at the intersection of cultural and political sociology.

Jedediah S. Purdy is the William S. Beinecke Professor of Law. A prolific scholar, he joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 2019 after 15 years at Duke Law School. He teaches and writes about environmental, property, and constitutional law as well as legal and political theory. Purdy’s most recent book, This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth, explores how the land has historically united and divided Americans, shows how environmental politics has always been closely connected with issues of distribution and justice, and describes humanity as an “infrastructure species. In his previous book, After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, he traced the long history of environmental law as a central feature of American political and cultural life. Purdy clerked for Judge Pierre N. Leval of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York City. A member of the New York State Bar, he is a contributing editor of The American Prospect and serves on the editorial board of Dissent.

Sheri Berman is a professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University.  Her research interests include European history and politics; the development of democracy; populism and fascism; and the history of the left.  She has written about these topics for a wide variety of scholarly and non-scholarly publications, including the New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and VOX.  She currently serves on the boards of the Journal of Democracy, Dissent and Political Science Quarterly.  Her most recent book, Democracy and Dictatorship: From the Ancien Regime to the Present Day, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019.

Moderated by Gregory Wawro (Ph.D., Cornell, 1997). Dr. Wawro specializes in American politics (including Congress, elections, campaign finance, judicial politics, and political economy) and political methodology. He is the author of Legislative Entrepreneurship in the U.S. House of Representatives and co-author (with Eric Schickler) of Filibuster: Obstruction and Lawmaking in the United States Senate, which is an historical analysis of the causes and consequences of filibusters. He has published articles in The American Journal of Political Science, The Annual Review of Political Science, Critical Review, Legislative Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Law Economics and Organization, and Political Analysis. His academic awards include the Richard J. Fenno Prize for best book in legislative studies in 2006, the E.E. Schattschneider Award, the Milton J. Esman Award, the CQ Prize for best paper presented in the Legislative Studies section at the 2002 APSA meeting, a Mellon Foundation Graduate Fellowship, and a John M. Olin Faculty Fellowship. He has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences at Harvard University.

Register here for virtual attendance via Zoom webinar.

Register here for in-person attendance (Lindsay Rogers Room, IAB 707). In-person attendace is for Columbia Univesity affiliates with "green passes" only.

This event is sponsored by ISERP, the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Dean of the Division of Social Science, and the Political Science Department.