Include, ignore, prohibit: How should states respond to populism?
2:45 PM - 4:00 PM
Fri Oct 5, 2018
Harvard Medical School - Amphitheater
PANEL policy


Discussions of the recent surge of populism often focus on its origins and characteristics. This panel seeks to go a step ahead and asks: what responses does the phenomenon solicit? By achieving political power, often without prior political experience, populist groups are shaking some of the core assumptions and institutions of our democracies. By contrasting developments in the U.S. and Germany, we hope to discuss whether and how states ought to make use of constitutional, legal, and societal measures in responding to the rise of the often un-welcome newcomers.

With new nationalistic tendencies emerging in both Germany and the US, shifting power dynamics and challenges to established authorities, questions arise around whether or not  institutions have the right or even obligation to intervene. These voices themselves are not neutral but highlight the increasing division and polarization of the political spectrum. Given these circumstances, how can we find common grounds for creating a strong transcontinental world community? And who is “we” in the first place?

The panel draws on perspectives from political science, law, theology and ethics to respond to increasingly pressing concerns: When and how do populist tendencies evoke the need for government interventions? Should the government refrain from interfering with populistic phenomena altogether? Who decides which ideas or actions are deemed to be illegitimate? And is it desirable that state authorities react instead of — or in addition to — the public?

Alexander Görlach Senior Fellow, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Andreas Paulus Justice, German Constitutional Court
Cynthia McClintock Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University
Heinrich Bedford-Strohm Chair, Council of Evangelical Churches in Germany (EKD)
Sheri Berman Professor, Barnard College

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