Talk It Out
In a recent New Yorker article, historian Jill Lepore argued that the current crisis of faith in democracy isn't the first the world has faced. If you have trouble getting access, I've added the essay to the readings posted on the Lecture class's Blackboard site.
Lepore's article details parallels between the present day and the 1920s and 30s, an era of economic collapse that saw the rise of both Communist and Fascist regimes. But Lepore finds reason for hope in the vigorous public debates about democracy's future that arose in the 1930s in the US: "It’s a paradox of democracy that the best way to defend it is to attack it, to ask more of it, by way of criticism, protest, and dissent."
Homework: post a brief, 1¶ response to one of the following prompts.
- Lepore doesn't insist too strongly on the historical parallel between the early 20th century and the present day. How close a parallel do you see between the worldwide threats to democracy in the 1920s and 30s and anxieties today? In answering, focus on a particular instance.
- Lepore suggests that questioning democracy is the best way to save it, pointing to the impact of public forums that spread across the US starting in Des Moines, Iowa. How might we apply the lessons of 1930s civic debate to our present difficulties? In answering, make a specific proposal.
- After reading Lepore's account of 1930s civic debates, held in lecture halls and broadcast over the radio, some might question whether new media have rendered that lesson obsolete. Is a 1930s solution still viable in the era of social networking? In answering, focus narrowly, noting a particular aspect of modern-day interaction on Facebook, Twitter, etc.