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A love letter to democratic institutions

43 minutes

The problems of disinformation, conspiracies, and cancel culture are probably familiar to many of our listeners. But they're usually talked about separately, including on this show. In his new book, The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth, Jonathan Rauch ties these threads together and shows how they contribute to a larger problem of a departure from facts and truth in favor of feelings and falsehoods. 

The book reaches back to the parallel eighteenth-century developments of liberal democracy and science to explain what he calls the “Constitution of Knowledge”—our social system for turning disagreement into truth. The institutions that Rauch describes as "reality-based communities," universities, media, government organizations, and the courts, need our support now more than ever as they face attacks from illiberal forces across the political spectrum. 

But are the problems on the left and the right really the same? Rauch argues they are. Michael Berkman and Chris Beem consider that equivalency after the interview.

Rauch is a senior fellow in the Governance Studies program and the author of eight books and many articles on public policy, culture, and government. He is a contributing writer of The Atlantic and recipient of the 2005 National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.  He has also authored research on political parties, marijuana legalization, LGBT rights and religious liberty, and more.

Additional Information

The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth

Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought

Jonathan Rauch on Twitter

Related Episodes

How democracies can win the war on reality

Andrew Sullivan on democracy's double-edged sword

Jonathan Haidt on the psychology of democracy

How conspiracies are damaging democracy

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Start listening to Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom
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Start listening to Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom
33:55