Public Seminar

Public Seminar is dedicated to informing debate about the pressing issues of our times and creating a global intellectual commons. An independent project of The New School Publishing Initiative, Public Seminar is produced by New School faculty, students and staff, and supported by colleagues and collaborators around the globe.

Public Seminar is, above all things, dedicated to the intellectual and cultural work of democracy, and is open to a range of perspectives. Using the New School’s expertise in social science, humanities, design and the creative and performing arts, it aims to begin and sustain conversation. The views expressed by Public Seminar contributors do not necessarily represent those of The New School, or the editors and staff of Public Seminar.

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Associate's Articles

The suspicion that Trump will refuse to accept the result of the election is symptomatic of the state of democratic politics today. That modern liberal democracies can cancel themselves is an inevitable possibility. But to reduce politics to a battle between the defenders and the opponents of ‘true democracy’ is to turn pluralism into its opposite. 

Warnings about resurgent fascism are not entirely unjustified. And yet they can still blind us to the political dangers we are now facing. It is Napoleon, not Hitler, who exemplifies an enduring threat to modern democracies, argues historian of modern France David A. Bell.

The vision of M4BL

Public Seminar Week of 12 June

Public Seminar engages with the intellectual production and vision of the Movement for Black Lives. Why elites need to focus on institutional structures and allocations of resources that reproduce violence; how regime change may be coming home to the USA; and pro and contra the campaign to defund the police.

An American reckoning

The fire this time

Since the Ferguson uprising in 2014, the Movement for Black Lives has influenced public opinion about racism in American life, changed policy, helped reduce police violence and reshaped the politics of social justice. Finally, the wider public is coming to understand the need for a radical political transformation.

Convulsions in the USA

Public Seminar May–June 2020

Our US associate Public Seminar looks into the most significant social unrest since the civil rights movement. On white ‘moral credentialing’; the making of Black Lives Matter; and the endorsement debate dividing the Democrats.

Rightwing nationalists push for keeping migrants out of their countries, even though their economies are sustained by the cheap and desperate labour force, created by the climate crisis. To defuse this paradox, Thomas Nail proposes to turn the model on its feet instead of its head by acknowledging that mobility has always been the reality of both people and nature.

The combination of attention engineering and targeted disinformation is destroying the democratic public sphere. What is the solution? Net literacy, though essential, is not enough, argues Howard Rheingold. The monopoly power of the internet companies must be curbed.

Social media’s commercial colonization of the internet is clearly detrimental to the public interest. However, calls for an ‘information commons’ go too far: rather, those who own the new information channels must comply with rules set by democratic process.

Lies, fakes and deep fakes

Deceptions and scams in the age of Trump

‘Deep fakes’ are increasingly being used to damage the reputation of political leaders, interfere in elections, and undermine faith in the veracity of public discourse. Concerted action by civil society groups, states and social media intermediaries is the only way to nip this new danger to democracy in the bud.

Postmodernism was conceived largely by the Left as a safeguard against totalizing ideologies. Yet today, it has been appropriated on behalf of an encroaching neo-totalitarianism of the Right. Is French literary theory to blame? And can a philosophy of dissent developed in communist eastern Europe offer an antidote?

Is there illiberal democracy?

A problem with no semantic solution

Is there anything democratic about ‘illiberal democracy’? The temptation to dismiss its proponents as illegitimate is clear but, as Jeffrey C. Isaac argues, it was by openly examining and addressing their claims to act for ‘the people’ that previous authoritarian political movements were successfully challenged.