“This is what democracy looks like” has been for decades a frequent chant at demonstrations. Throughout the world, the demand for a new democracy has been at the center of a wide range of social movements, from the “indignados” of Spain and Greece to the “Be water” protests in Hong Kong, and from the Arab Spring struggles in Tunisia and Egypt, to the continuing Black Lives Matter struggles in the US. At issue is both the democratic organization internal to the movement, which often takes horizontal form, and the vision of a democratic society beyond the movement. At a time when conventional conceptions of democracy seem ever more tenuous and the institutions that support them ever weaker, when even in the United States serious doubts are raised about the rule of law and the electoral process, what does it mean for social movements to claim the mantle of democracy? And what kind of democracy do they enact and evoke? Michael Hardt and Katharine Wallerstein will discuss the question of democracy in social movements in an international frame.
Michael Hardt teaches political theory in the Literature Program at Duke University. His writings explore new forms of domination in the contemporary world as well as the social movements and other forces of liberation that resist them. In the Empire trilogy -- Empire (2000), Multitude (2004), and Commonwealth(2009) -- he and Antonio Negri investigate the political, legal, economic, and social aspects of globalization. They also study the political and economic alternatives that could lead to a more democratic world. Their most recent book, Assembly (2017), addresses the power of contemporary social movements and the major challenges facing them. He serves as editor of The South Atlantic Quarterly. With Sandro Mezzadra, he hosts The Social Movements Lab.