Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Integrative Research Institute Law & Society (LSI)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Faculty of Law | Integrative Research Institute Law & Society (LSI) | Events | Daniel Ziblatt (Harvard University): The Rise and Fall of Democracy: Lessons From the Past for Today

Daniel Ziblatt (Harvard University): The Rise and Fall of Democracy: Lessons From the Past for Today

  • When Dec 10, 2019 from 06:00 to 08:00
  • Where HU Berlin, Law Faculty, Raum 213
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How do democracies form and what makes them die? Daniel Ziblatt summarizes findings from his comparative historical analysis of modern political democracy in Europe from its modest beginnings in 1830s United Kingdom to Adolf Hitler's 1933 seizure of power in Weimar Germany. He argues the barriers to creating inclusive political rule are not overcome on unstoppable tides of socioeconomic change nor via triumph of heroic middle classes and working class rebellion armed with notions of popular sovereignty. Instead, political democracy’s fate surprisingly hinges on how conservative political parties—the historical defenders of power, wealth, and privilege--recast themselves in the face of modern politics. The talk concludes by reflecting on the implications of this history for today.


Daniel Ziblatt is Eaton Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard University where he has been director (interim) of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. He is also currently the Karl W. Deutsch Visiting Professor at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB) and has been awarded the 2019 Berlin Prize by the American Academy in Berlin. He specializes in the study of Europe and the history of democracy. His three books include How Democracies Die (Crown, 2018), co-authored with Steve Levitsky), a New York Times best-seller, translated into twenty two languages. He is also the author of Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2017), an account of Europe's historical democratization, which won the American Political Science Association's 2018 Woodrow Wilson Prize for the best book in government and international relations and three other prizes including the American Sociological Association's 2018 Barrington Moore Award for the best book in comparative historical sociology.  His first book was an analysis of 19th century state building, Structuring the State: The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism (Princeton, 2006 [2008]). At Harvard, Ziblatt co-chairs (with Steve Levitsky) the Challenges to Democracy Research Cluster (for postdocs, undergraduates, and PhD students) and directs a research program for graduate and undergraduate students at Harvard's Institute of Quantitative Social Science ("Politics Through Time").  He has been a visiting scholar at Ludwig-Maximilian University (Munich), Sciences Po (Paris), the European University Institute (Florence, Italy), the Max Planck Institute (Cologne), Stanford University and Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. (Source:


The Lecture is part of the Bard College/LSI's Lecture Series on Popular Sovereignty.