A.D. White professor addresses threats to democracy

Theda Skocpol, Harvard scholar and A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell, will present the public lecture “Rising Threats to U.S. Democracy – Roots and Responses” on April 9 at 4 p.m. in Lewis Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall.

The event is part of Skocpol’s A.D. White Professors-at-Large (ADW-PAL) visit April 8-12 and is co-sponsored by the Department of Government. She was elected in 2015 to the A.D. White Professor-at-Large program, which was established in 1965 to bring the world’s greatest scientists, artists and scholars to Cornell to advance the intellectual and creative life of the campus and community.

Skocpol is a professor of both sociology and government at Harvard. One of the most highly cited social scientists in the world, Skocpol is uniquely situated to address the state of U.S. democracy today, said Suzanne Mettler, the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).

“Her wide-ranging scholarship has probed the role that citizens have played historically in invigorating democracy, typically through widespread civic organizations. She has also investigated the political circumstances under which social policies have been enacted successfully and the crucial role that political institutions exert in shaping such outcomes,” Mettler said. “She has examined both the transformation of the contemporary Republican Party as the Tea Party and wealthy donors pushed it toward extremism as well as the role of the post-2017 Trump resistance at the grassroots level.”

During her public lecture, Skocpol will discuss why U.S. democracy is facing an existential crisis this year. She will highlight and explain the recent turn of the Republican Party and its allies toward minority authoritarian governance backed by threats and violence, using historical and cross-national comparisons to pinpoint the most worrisome developments and suggest necessary responses by pro-democratic forces.

Skocpol will also participate in a panel discussion, “American Democracy Challenges in Comparative Perspective,” on April 10 at 2:30 p.m. in G08 Uris Hall. Open to all, this event will feature Skocpol in conversation with faculty of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies: Mabel Berezin, Distinguished Professor of Arts & Sciences in Sociology and Director of the Institute for European Studies; Ken Roberts, the Richard J. Schwartz Professor in Government; and Rachel Beatty Riedl, the John S. Knight Professor International Studies and Director of the Einaudi Center.

The panel discussion is hosted by the Institute for European Studies (Director, IES) in collaboration with the Democratic Threats and Resilience Initiative (DTR) of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

During her time at Cornell, Skocpol will also make an in-classroom visit and meet with students in the Department of Government.

Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University where she previously served as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2005-2007) and Director of the Center for American Political Studies (2000-2006). She is a widely respected and highly influential scholar in social sciences today, making key contributions to the study of comparative American politics particularly in respect to health care, civic engagement and inequality. Her scholarship in sociology has been historically informed and influential in studies of the history of states, social welfare, and gender. She is also currently Director of the Scholars Strategy Network, which she co-founded in 2009.
Skocpol’s 12 books cover a wide range of topics in sociology, political science and history. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Boston Globe, Slate, Democracy, and other publications.

Skocpol has received the Johan Skytte Prize for Political Science (2007) and Guggenheim Fellowships, among other awards. She has been elected to The Academy of Arts and Sciences (1994), the American Philosophical Society (2006), and the National Academy of Sciences (2008).

A.D. White Professors at Large are appointed for six-year terms and during that period engage in two or three immersive campus visits. There are currently 19 A.D. White Professors at Large, spanning the Arts, Humanities, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences.

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Theda Skocpol
Theda Skocpol