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What does it take to sustain democracy?

40 minutes

Political disagreements are everywhere these days and most experts agree that too much political polarization is bad for democracy in the long run. How do we move beyond those disagreements, or at least not make them worse? Does the solution come from individual actions or institutional reform? Or perhaps a mix of both? This is what Robert Talisse describes as the "democrat's dilemma" and he argues the solution starts with introspection that he calls "democratic reflection."

Drawing on social science research concerning political polarization and partisan identity, Talisse's new book Sustaining Democracy suggests that when we break off civil interactions with our political opponents, we imperil relations with our political allies. In the absence of engagement with our political critics, our alliances grow increasingly homogeneous, conformist, and hierarchical. Moreover, they fracture and devolve amidst internal conflicts. In the end, our political aims suffer because our coalitions shrink and grow ineffective.

Michael and Chris contrast the need for democratic introspection and collaboration with the prospect of institutional reform and discuss how to make sense of Talisse's arguments as we approach the one-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection. Talisse previously joined us in December 2019 to discuss his book Overdoing Democracy.

Additional Information

Sustaining Democracy: What We Owe to the Other Side

Related Episodes

Is it possible to overdo democracy?

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