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Danielle Allen lectures on necessary changes to democracy

| Thursday, September 7, 2023

With the future of democracy in mind, Danielle Allen presented a lecture on her recent book “Justice by Means of Democracy” in DeBartolo Hall Wednesday night.

Grace Tadajweski
Author Danielle Allen presents on her latest book while also talking democracy in the United States.

A self-proclaimed democracy advocate, Allen is a professor at Harvard College and an author of several books. She attributes her introduction to democracy to her politically engaged family members and community, such as her grandparents who fought for racial equality and women’s suffrage.

Not only that, but Allen acknowledges that she learned a “core lesson” from her father and aunt who both ran for election from opposing ends of the political spectrum.

“Two things were very clear to me,” Allen said. “The first one, that for all they disagreed on the how, what they’re planning to do, they’re actually pursuing the same thing. They were both pursuing empowerment. And the second thing I realized was that for all that they disagree with each other, they never broke them on the glove.”

Allen explained that she has seen the United States go through the “push apart.” The country has seen an increase in income and wealth inequality, incarceration and polarization, she described.

“Yes, we love the ideals of freedom and equality, and there’s great value in those,” Allen said, “But the point of democracy is that based on those values that are supposed to help communities of human beings live better than they would otherwise be able to live.”

Allen called upon a need for change in democracy in order to better support communities across the United States.

“We’ve got to do the work of figuring out how to change the dynamics,” Allen said. “So instead of in sort pulling apart an experience of ‘some are here, some are here’, our democracy is helping every generational cohort in fact move up together.”

Allen claimed that John Rawls’ “A Theory of Justice” contributed to further thought on the topic of protected liberties, in that they are necessary for human thriving. A connection and feeling of empowerment are necessary between policymakers and people, Allen said.

“Those negative liberties, freedom from interference, are completely entangled with the patent on those positive liberties, liberties to participate,” Allen said. “And this is where we get to the idea that justice comes by means of democracy.”

In conjunction with analysis of the Declaration of Independence, Allen believes that commitment to power sharing liberalism is needed. Through this, she said, the United States can restructure its government and empower its economy.

“The core idea is that in order to achieve that, the first thing we really have to figure out is how to build those structures for universal inclusion and participation in decision making across all the different elements of our society,” Allen said.

History professor John McGreevy explained how, “The forum’s goal this academic year is to invite reflection and dialogue among the students and scholars across different disciplines on the rising and emerging threats to global democracy and to consider how democracy can be reinvigorated in our nation and across the world,” adding that, ““We could not have a better speaker equipped to speak with us about these issues.”

The Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government was the host for Allen’s lecture.

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