Following a four-year hiatus, the Presidential Lecture returns as a cornerstone Clark event with Daniel Ziblatt, co-author of the bestselling book “How Democracies Die,” delivering an address on Wednesday, October 26, at 5 p.m. in Tilton Hall. Past lectures brought to campus prominent speakers who spoke to some of the most urgent issues of the day, like global climate change, social and racial inequities, the broken American food system, and the ways in which digital technology is rewiring how we process the world.
In “How Democracies Die,” Ziblatt and his co-author Steve Levitsky, professors of government at Harvard University, chronicle how the demise of liberal democracies in Europe and Latin America offers chilling parallels to the steady and intentional erosion of democratic ideals in the United States.
“We are honored to be welcoming Daniel Ziblatt to Clark. The topic he will address is critically timely and relevant,” said President David Fithian. “Daniel’s important work challenges us to consider the vital question of how we want to be governed and illuminates the steps needed to preserve our increasingly brittle democracy. His talk promises to advance the goal behind the Presidential Lectures — engaging our community around a pressing problem, deepening understanding and broadening perspective, then inspiring us to apply our own critical and original thinking toward a forceful response.”
The process of undermining what were assumed to be bedrock political norms and the weakening of critical institutions — from the judiciary to the press — has been underway for decades, Ziblatt and Levitsky insist. The rise of extremist players in the political ethos has accelerated the removal of many of the “guardrails” that preserved democracy. Supported by two decades of study, the authors offer insight into the playbook employed by generations of global autocrats to obtain and hold on to power and issue a clear warning that the United States is vulnerable to a similar fate unless steps are taken to turn the tide.