Popular Sovereignty, Majority Rule, and Electoral Politics

Conferences and Workshops

The three concepts-popular sovereignty, majority rule and electoral politics-as embodied in institutional arrangements and practices, are seen as constitutive of the modern democratic project as it has evolved over the last three hundred years or more. However, in recent decades those concepts and their institutional expressions are beginning to threaten and undermine the spirit and norms of democracy everywhere, including in economically advanced liberal societies in the West.  This conference interrogated and explored this challenge “internal” to the democratic project itself.



Thursday, May 30, 2019


12.30-1.30 Lunch, IWM Cafeteria



Panel 1: Popular Sovereignty and Neo-Liberalism

Ewa Atanassow (Political Thought, Bard College, Berlin & Visiting Fellow, IWM, Vienna)

Popular Sovereignty on Trial

Benjamin Lee (Anthropology and Philosophy, New School)

Neoliberalism, Financialization and the Politics of Volatility

Chair: Dilip Gaonkar (Rhetoric & Public Culture, Northwestern University)


3.30-4.00pm Coffee



Keynote Address

Michael Ignatieff (Political Philosophy, Rector of CEU)

Democracy Against Democracy: The Electoral Crisis of Liberal Constitutionalism

Chair: Shalini Randeria (Anthropology and Sociology, Rector of IWM)


7:30pm Dinner, Restaurant Tulsi, Fluchtgasse 1, 1090 Wien




Friday, June 31, 2019


9.30-10.00am Coffee


10.00am-12.00 noon

Panel 2:  Democracy and Degeneration

Charles Taylor (Philosophy, McGill University)

Three Modes of Democratic Degenerations

Craig Calhoun (Social Sciences, Arizona State University)

Shifting Social Foundations of Democracy

Chair: Claudio Lomnitz (Anthropology, Columbia University)


12:00-1.00pm Lunch, Restaurant Gabel&Co, Julius-Tandler-Platz 1, 1090 Wien



Panel 3: Democracy and Contestation

Dilip Gaonkar (Rhetoric and Pubic Culture, Northwestern University)

The Structure of Democratic Degenerations

Nilufer Gole (Sociology, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, EHESS)

Populism and Pluralism: Public Space at Stake

Chair: Ludger Hagedorn (Philosophy, Permanent Fellow, IWM)


3.00-3.30pm Coffee



Panel 4: Democracy at Crossroads in Latin America

Claudio Lomnitz (Anthropology, Columbia University)

Mexico: The National-Popular Tradition in the Era of Climate Change

Luciana Chamorro Elizondo (Anthropology, Doctoral Candidate, Columbia University) 

Populist authoritarianism and minority rule in post-revolutionary Nicaragua

Chair: Ayse Caglar (Social & Cultural Anthropology, Permanent Fellow, IWM)


7:30pm Dinner, Restaurant Heurigen Schübel Auer, Kahlenberger Str. 22, 1190 Wien



Saturday, June 1, 2019


9.30-10.00am Coffee



Panel 5:  Theorizing and Historicizing Indian Democracy

Arudra Burra (Philosophy, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi)

Popular but not Sovereign: Nationalism, Electoral Politics, and the Government of India Act, 1935

Aishwary Kumar (History, Stanford University & Visiting Fellow, IWM)

The Idolatry to Come: Constitutional Theory and the Majority's Two Bodies

Mukulika Banerjee (Anthropology and South Asia, LSE)

The Challenges of Cultivating Democracy

Chair: Deval Desai (Law, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Albert Hirschman Center on Democracy, Graduate Institute, Geneva)


1:00pm Sandwich Lunch, IWM Cafeteria (optional)

Institute for the Human Sciences, Vienna Center for Trans Cultural Studies (CTS), Chicago & New York and Center for Global Culture and Communication (CGCC), Northwestern University