Crisis or Transformation? From Good-old Democracy to Rough Democracy, ca. 1970-2020

Mar 07, 2024  | 5 - 6:30pm PT

Gerda Henkel Lecture Tour at University of Nevada, Reno, Schulich Lecture Hall, SLH2 | Speaker: Paul Nolte (Freie Universität Berlin)

There seems to be a consensus that in the early 21st century, liberal democracy has entered a stage of fundamental crisis, under attack from neo-authoritarian ideas, movements, and regimes, externally as well as, even more frightening, from within. Is the golden age of democracy over, is democracy on course for eventual collapse, or will it recover from crisis? But indeed, recover to what state of the past? What if we were not witnesses to a crisis of democracy, but rather to its transformation, with the current predicaments being the new normal? From a historical point of view, “pre-crisis” democracy corresponded to social structures, cultural milieus and technological environments that will never be brought back. Indeed, this longing often projects a relatively short period in the trajectory of democracy, participation, and liberal society as an ideal state, while it was in itself full of shortcomings, rigid structures, and privileges for the few. In some ways, the ongoing transformation into a mode of “rough democracy” reminds of its beginnings in the 18th and early 19th centuries, with its non-polite social habits, its violent taking to the streets, and its prominence of quite erratic personae who defy conventional expectations of order and bourgeois civility. It is about time to come to terms with rough democracy.

This lecture is part of the Gerda Henkel Lecture Series, organized by the Pacific Office of the German Historical Institute Washington in cooperation with the Gerda Henkel Foundation. The program brings German historians to the West Coast to present their research and engage in dialogue with their colleagues in the US and Canada.

About the speaker

Paul Nolte is one of Germany's leading contemporary historians. He holds a Chair at the famed Friedrich Meinecke Institute of the Freie Universität Berlin and directs the Berlin Program, which brings many American PhD candidates to Germany.

Lecture tour dates


January 24 |  4 - 5:30 pm | European History Workshop at Stanford University, Lane History Corner (Building 200), Room 307. Co-hosted by Stanford Humanities Center’s Workshop in Education & Humanities

University of Colorado Boulder

February 13 | 5pm - 6:30 pm |University of Colorado, Boulder; Eaton Humanities, 1NB50, 1610 Pleasant Street, Boulder

University of California, Los Angeles

February 23 | 4pm - 5:30pm, 6275 Bunche Hall

University of California, Berkeley

March 5 | 5pm-6:30pm | University of California, Berkeley, 223 Philosophy Hall

University of Nevada, Reno

March 7 | 5pm - 6:30pm | University of Nevada, Reno, Schulich Lecture Hall, SLH2