This is part of the Democracy Futures seminar series
Wednesday 2 March 2016
Speaker: Assistant Professor Christopher Hobson
In the quarter of a century since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the confidence surrounding democracy has been replaced with growing concerns about whether it is now in crisis. What is needed is an approach to democracy that avoids both the excessive optimism of the 1990s and the more corrosive pessimism that has emerged in recent years.
Responding to this situation, Assistant Professor Christopher Hobson considers the old idea of humility, which, if understood in terms of an awareness of one’s limits and an acknowledgement of what has yet to be achieved, has the potential to offer a powerful way of approaching democratic government.
This paper explores the different meanings the idea has taken, and develops a conception of humility that emphasises reflection and knowing, on mediating on one’s self and impact on others. Building on these considerations, it is proposed that a humble approach to democracy entails a recognition of the significant achievements of this form of rule, while appreciating that its strength ultimately – albeit perhaps paradoxically – comes from what it lacks: its inevitable imperfectibility, its constant incompleteness.
Christopher Hobson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University (Japan). He has previously held positions at the United Nations University and Aberystwyth University, and has a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from the Australian National University. His work lies at the intersection between democracy and international politics.
He is the author of The Rise of Democracy: Revolution, War and Transformations in International Politics since 1776 (Edinburgh University Press, 2015), and has co-edited three books including The Conceptual Politics of Democracy Promotion (Routledge 2011).