Is the future for ‘strong

Is the future for ‘strong' men like Putin and Xi Jinping?

Well-known political scientist from Great Britain to give Tans lecture

15-11-2022 · News

Have democracies had their day? Are ‘strong’ men like Putin, Xi Jinping and Trump going to run the show in the future? The Tans lecture by David Runciman, one of the most well-known political scientists in England, is all about this topic. The lecture is organised by Studium Generale.

“Politics has never been more unpredictable, more alarming or more interesting: Talking Politics is the podcast that tries to make sense of it all.” This is the teaser on the popular podcast’s website, which was downloaded 26 million times in six years (until it ended in March this year). For political scientist David Runciman, who welcomed many guests together with economist Helen Thompson, this meant a breakthrough to a broader audience. The weekly episodes – which can still be listened to – were not just about politics, but also about history, economics and philosophy. 

One of the questions that was dealt with several times was whether democracy is coming to an end. Not an absurd question when you think about the attack on the Capitol in the United States, about the popularity of an authoritarian leader like Trump (who openly flirted with Putin), about the advance of populism, and authoritarian regimes worldwide.

Democracy is far from perfect, Runciman reckoned previously in NRC. As far as he is concerned, democracy and dissatisfaction belong together. Often, very little is learned from mistakes and after a crisis, everyone just muddles along without satisfactory conclusions or moral atonement. However, he believes that the power of democracy lies in this improvisation, in this experimenting with solutions. It is better able to adapt to new circumstances than autocratic regimes.

Besides, what is the alternative? The Chinese variant of authoritarian capitalism? That might seem attractive to those who can’t see beyond economic growth, says Runciman, but will the Chinese model also stand up when that growth diminishes?

This Englishman detects a struggle between autocracy and democracy on the world stage, with China and the US as the main characters. According to Runciman, this rivalry doesn’t limit itself to the political arena, but manifests itself just as much in technology, innovation and culture.

The question remains: who will end up being the winner?






Who is Runciman?

David Runciman (1967) teaches Politics and History at Cambridge University and often writes about the history of democracy. He does that in articles for the magazine London Review of Books, for The Guardian, and in his (eight) books. In his last book, How Democracy Ends (2018), he maps out the threats, including coups and disasters, such as the climate crisis or nuclear war. His next book, States, Corporations and Robots: A History of Humanity's Future, is about to be published.

The Tans lecture 'Is authoritarianism winning?' will take place on Thursday, 24 November in the auditorium on the Minderbroedersberg 4-6

Archive Runciman

Categories: news_top, Science
Tags: Tans lecture, studium generale

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