Date and Time

December 7, 2022 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST

Location

Online

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Featuring

Fair Observer
Shadi Hamid

Shadi Hamid is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an assistant research professor of Islamic studies at Fuller Seminary. He is also a contributing writer at The Atlantic, where he writes a monthly essay on culture and politics. His new book is The Problem of Democracy: America, the Middle East, and the Rise and Fall of an Idea (Oxford University Press). His previous book, Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World, was shortlisted for the 2017 Lionel Gelber Prize for best book on foreign affairs. Hamid’s first book, Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East was named a Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2014. He received his BS and MA from Georgetown University and his DPhil in politics at Oxford University.

Fair Observer
Atul Singh

Atul Singh is the founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Fair Observer. He has taught political economy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Online Event

FO° Talks: The Problem of Democracy

FO° Talks

Date and Time

December 7, 2022 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST

Location

Online

Share This Event

Featuring

Fair Observer
Shadi Hamid

Shadi Hamid is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an assistant research professor of Islamic studies at Fuller Seminary. He is also a contributing writer at The Atlantic, where he writes a monthly essay on culture and politics. His new book is The Problem of Democracy: America, the Middle East, and the Rise and Fall of an Idea (Oxford University Press). His previous book, Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World, was shortlisted for the 2017 Lionel Gelber Prize for best book on foreign affairs. Hamid’s first book, Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East was named a Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2014. He received his BS and MA from Georgetown University and his DPhil in politics at Oxford University.

Fair Observer
Atul Singh

Atul Singh is the founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Fair Observer. He has taught political economy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Shadi Hamid reimagines the ongoing debate on democracy’s merits and proposes an ambitious agenda for reviving the lost art of democracy promotion in the world’s most undemocratic regions.

What happens when democracy produces “bad” outcomes? Is democracy good because of its outcomes or despite them? This “democratic dilemma” is one of the most persistent, vexing problems for America abroad, particularly in the Middle East – we want democracy in theory but not necessarily in practice.

When Islamist parties rise to power through free elections, the US has too often been ambivalent or opposed, preferring instead pliable dictators. With this legacy of democratic disrespect in mind, and drawing on new interviews with top American officials, Shadi Hamid explores universal questions of morality, power, and hypocrisy. Why has the US failed so completely to live up to its own stated ideals in the Arab world? And is it possible for it to change?

The author and speaker offers an ambitious reimagining of this ongoing debate and argues for “democratic minimalism” as a path to resolving democratic dilemmas in the Middle East and beyond. In the seemingly eternal tension between democracy and liberalism, recognized by the ancient Greeks and the American founders alike, it may be time to prioritize one over the other, rather than acting as if the two are intertwined when increasingly they are not.

At the end of the Cold War, the democratic idea was victorious, so much so that it took on more meaning than it could bear. Democracy became a means to other ends, whether it was liberalism, economic development, or cultural progress. What if, instead, democracy was reconceptualized as its own end? What if the people are right even when they’re wrong?

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