The idea of democracy in a global world

Fall 2005 Program

Thursday evenings, 7:00 – 9:00 pm

Seminar Series: “Swallow Hill,” 1940 Hill 60 Road, Cobourg

Friday mornings, 10:00 am to noon

Special Event: Columbus Community Centre, 232 Spencer Street East, Cobourg

Thursday evening, November 3, 7:00 – 9:00 pm

Week 1 Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lecture 1 “Setting the stage”

Frank Cunningham, Ph.D.; Professor, Departments of Philosophy and Political Science, and former Principal of Innis College, University of Toronto

In 1955 the philosopher William Gaillie published an influential article called “Essentially Contested Concepts.” These are concepts central to any area of study or discourse (examples are “energy,” “time,” “life,” or “person”) which, though essential to thought and action, admit of many, conflicting interpretations about which there are ongoing debates. These debates, moreover, do not take place outside of the areas of thought and action to which they apply, but are implicated in controversies taking place within these very fields. “Democracy” is a prime example of such a contested concept. The nature of democracy, its value, and its relation to other contested political concepts, such as “rights” or “equality,” are subjects of debate or of cross-purpose argumentation both in political-theoretical circles and in actual political arenas themselves. What is more, there are contests over the very meaning of the term “democracy.” In this lecture, central positions taken on the meaning, nature, and value of democracy from the time of Aristotle to the present will be reviewed and the implications for political institutions and practices of adopting one position against others will be discussed relative to topics to be ddressed in subsequent lectures in the series.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Seminar: “The Meaning of Democracy”

An open discussion with Professor Cunningham, author of “Theories of Democracy: A Critical Introduction,” on the meaning of democracy and an exploration of democratic values.

Week 2 Thursday, October 13, 2005

Lecture 2 “The Impact of Globalization,”

Nisha Shah, Ph.D. (cand.); Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto

This lecture will overview contemporary processes associated with globalizatiton. In particular, attention will be devoted to the economic dimensions of globalization as manifested in international trade and finance. After detailing the definitions of and debates about globalization, the challenges raised for democracy will be discussed. What are the key challenges for democracy and what are the best ways to overcome them will be the main questions addressed in this lecture. I propose that how we seek to interpret and represent globalization determines how we construct the possibilities for democracy governance. Different models of ‘global’ democracy will be therefore be reviewed and assessed through an analysis of popular metaphors of globalization.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Seminar: “The Influence of Corporations”

Wade Rowland, Ph.D.; Adjunct Faculty, Trent University

An open discussion with the author of “Greed, Inc.: Why Corporations Rule Our World and How We Let It Happen.” The session will focus on the evolving nature of the modern, publicly-held business corporation and its role and influence in liberal democratic society.

Week 3 Thursday, October 27, 2005,

Lecture 3 “Democracy, Public Opinion and the Media”

Murray Seeger, educator, writer and journalist; Nieman Fellow, Harvard University.

Christine Stewart, former MP representing Northumberland County

Some 500 years after the Gutenberg invention that initiated the age of mass communications, democratic societies are flooded with news, information, opinion and amusement as never before. Gutenberg changed history, opened the path to universal literacy and democracy. Are we facing a comparable change in history behind the surge of modern communications technology?

The focus is sharpest on the dissemination of news by newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television and the Internet. Are these public media still performing their essential function of providing the information citizens need to make the best possible decisions in a democracy? There is emphasis on the status of the U.S. media, which often sets a pattern for other democratic societies.

In a brief presentation following Mr. Seeger’s talk, Christine Stewart will discuss the role and responsibility of an MP.

Friday, October 28, 2005,


An open dialogue on these matters with Murray Seeger and Professor Derrick de Kerckhove, Ph.D.; Director, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto

Week 4 Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lecture 4 “Democracy and Religion”

Dr. Gregory Baum, Professor Emeritus, McGill University; Catholic theologian and one of the architects of Vatican II Council

The Calvinist Reformation fostered democratic government in church and society and opened the door to capitalist development, while the Catholic and the German Lutheran Church remained largely identified with the feudal order. They wanted the princes to make responsible political decisions and expected the people to obey them. These Churches were seriously challenged by the democratic revolutions at the end of the 18th century, yet it took them a long time to rethink their position. The Catholic Church affirmed democracy, human rights and religious liberty only at the Vatican Council II (1962-1965). Under the impact of modernity, many Muslim religious thinkers are presently rethinking their tradition and find that democracy, human rights and religious liberty are sustained by the highest ideals of the Koran.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Seminar: An open discussion with members of the clergy, incl. Dr. Gregory Baum and the Reverend Ronald Kydd, Ph.D., Associate Priest, St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Cobourg

Week 5 Thursday, November 24, 2005

Lecture 5 “Democracy Multiculturalism and Education”

Professor Melissa Williams, Ph.D.; Professor, Department of Political Science, and Director, Centre for Ethics at Trinity College, University of Toronto

The principle of equality lies at the heart of ideals of democratic citizenship. Equal citizenship may or may not require some measure of economic equality – a worthy topic in its own right – but it clearly requires equality before the law and an equal capacity to participate politically. Historically, the construct “equal rights for all” has been interpreted as “the same rights for all.” But in recent decades feminists and “racial” or multicultural theorists and activists have argued that “equality” and “sameness” are not synonymous terms: sometimes we have to treat people differently in order to treat them as equals. This idea is not alien to Canadian democratic sensibilities; Canadians accept it and practice it much more readily than our neighbours to the south tend to do, probably because the historic legacy of bilingualism and biculturalism makes us more prone to accommodate than to suppress social and cultural differences. Still, the moral basis for “differentiated citizenship” needs to be articulated and justified, and its limits explored. How are the ideals of democratic citizenship and democratic equality rendered more complex in multicultural societies? How do the claims of cultural equality relate to claims for greater economic equality? Finally, given that democratic citizens are made, not born, how should our practices of democratic education acknowledge the multicultural character of our bodies politic?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Seminar: “Democracy and the Origins of a Public Culture”

Professor Caryl Clark, Ph.D.; Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and Janet M. Brooke, M.A.; Director, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University

Caryl Clark: Drawing on musical examples of western European art music, the seminar will explore growing democratic ideals in public music-making, listening and spectatorship in London, Paris and Vienna during the long nineteenth century.

Week 6 Thursday, December 8, 2005,

Lecture 6 “The Canadian Scene”

Professor Simone Chambers, Ph.D.; Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Friday, December 9, 2005

Seminar: “Quebec in or out of Canada? - Threat or Opportunity?”

Mrs. Gretta Chambers, CC, OC, BA, LLL, LLD, Chancellor Emerita, McGill University

An open dialogue on this topic, which will be considered from the perspective of a Quebecker.

Special Event:

Thursday, November 3, 7:00 – 9:00 pm

Lecture: “Astronomy in the Medieval Islamic World”

By popular request, Ingrid Hehmeyer, Ph.D., Professor, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, returns to present a second lecture.