The Ratiu Dialogues on Democracy serves as a growing platform for professionals, policymakers, academics, journalists, government officials, and teachers to meet and network.
The Return of History?
THE RATIU DIALOGUES ON DEMOCRACY 2024
The particular focus for the Dialogues is on tackling the challenges of populism, illiberalism, and democratic backsliding – even more urgent with the war in Ukraine and its potential to destabilise the region. The Dialogues provide a developing forum for professionals with diverse backgrounds, including policymakers, academics, journalists, government officials, and teachers.
For many years after the withdrawal of Soviet power from Europe, followed a few years later by the collapse of the Soviet Union itself, it became the norm amongst Western scholars to argue that the world was becoming ideologically more liberal, politically more democratic, and economically more open. Yet that is not how the world appears to many writers today.
With globalization under threat, liberal norms challenged by authoritarian states like Russia and China, and the Global South in apparent revolt as what it sees as an unequal world it claims favours the West, it is hardly surprising that many are now asking whether the current liberal democratic order can survive.
In 1989 the famous American pundit Francis Fukuyama talked of ‘history’ having come to an end with serious opposition to the liberal order having been consigned into the proverbial dustbin of history. It would now seem that far from history having ended, it was simply laying dormant waiting to pounce on the unwary and the unprepared.
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Monday 9th September
PESSIMISM IN THE AGE OF ‘POLYCRISIS’
In the opening session, a panel of experts will seek to explain why the hopes of a generation coming out of the long dark tunnel called the Cold War appear to have been dashed over the past twenty years. The historian Adam Tooze summarized the mood of pessimism in the following way: “if you’ve been feeling confused and as though everything is impacting on you all at the same time, this is not a personal, private experience, this is actually a collective experience.” And that experience he called a “polycrisis” defined as a series of “disparate crises interacting in such a way that the overall impact far exceeds the sum of each part” – and more worryingly still, seemingly incapable of easy resolution.
GAMBLING ON THE FUTURE: ELECTIONS IN THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
As 2023 has been dubbed ‘The Year of Coups’, so 2024 has already been named ‘The Year of Elections’. Indeed, perhaps more than any other year in recent times, 2024 is gearing up to be one of the greatest tests for democracy yet.
With more than half the world’s population – over four billion people – sending their citizens to the polls from Taiwan and Bangladesh, through India and the EU, and last but by no means least in the United States in November, the world is facing one of its most politically unsettling moments.
THE UNITED STATES ON THE BRINK?
In a prescient analysis published as early as 2014, the famous Pew Research Center based in Chicago noted that the United States was beginning to come apart at the seams, with Republicans and Democrats increasingly at odds with one another in Congress, and Americans in general more polarized than at any time since the end of World War II. According to a number of pundits, those divisions and polarization are even threatening the stability of the republic with consequences that might be as serious for the world as they could be for the United States itself. With some polls indicating that the White House may once again be in the hands of Donald Trump after November, the road ahead looks bumpy indeed.
Tuesday 10th September
EUROPE AT THE CROSSROADS?
As the Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome recently reminded us, the challenges facing Europe are more than just about rising energy bills and refugees. According to Natalie Tocci, it is also about Europe’s failure to deal in a united and decisive fashion with the big foreign policy challenges of our time, not just in Ukraine where nearly half of all military aid going to Kyiv is still coming from the USA, but even more strikingly in an increasingly unstable Middle East where in her own words “Europe has revealed itself in all its weakness”. Tocci claims she remains an optimist about Europe. But as she goes on to confess, “crisis after crisis” is testing her “hope”.
THE VIEW FROM THE ‘SOUTH’
A new idea has gained popularity over the past few years: namely, there exists an entity called the ‘Global South’ comprising countries as far apart geographically and culturally as South Africa, Brazil, and India. Criticized by many in the West for lacking conceptual clarity, what the term lacks in precision it more than makes up for in terms of the political impact it is having in international affairs, most visibly in the United Nations where the ‘Global South’ and most western countries often find themselves in opposing camps. Both Beijing and Moscow have even sought to exploit this divide, claiming that they are the natural leaders of all those countries, which have experienced colonialism in the past while suffering economically in a world dominated by the $US dollar and Western bodies like the IMF.
WAR & ORDER: LESSONS FROM HISTORY
What lessons can we ever learn from history is one of the questions that has been asked on many occasions by the historian Margaret Macmillan. In this keynote final lecture, Margaret reflects on the ‘uses and abuses’ of history to throw light on our current situation where war has become more prevalent and peace a distant hope.
Prof Chris Alden
Prof Michael Cox
Prof Alexander Evans
Dr Brian Klaas
Prof Piers Ludlow
Dr Slobodan Markovich
Dr Mary Martin
Dr Aaron McKeil
Dr Alvaro Mendez
Dr Rohan Mukherjee
Dr Sandra Pralong
Dr Nathalie Tocci (online)
Dr Leslie Vinjamuri
Dr Ivan Lidarev
More names to be confirmed.