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Democracy has been a goal of popular struggles throughout the modern era. In the late 20th century, it was widely viewed as the obvious path for progress in government. Today it is challenged not only by authoritarian regimes and other competitors but also by internal degenerations and upheavals.

Democracy has been an important goal and widespread achievement throughout the modern era, but it has also sometimes been reversed, has often been subject to struggle, and is under stress and challenge today. 

Craig Calhoun's work has addressed popular struggles for public voice and democracy, the relationship of popular struggles to ‘republican’ projects of designing better laws and institutions, and the importance of social foundations for democracy. Most recently, with Dilip Gaonkar and Charles Taylor, Craig Calhoun addressed the Degenerations of Democracy (link to where this appears under publications). This book focuses primarily on Europe and North America but in other work, he addresses global dimensions of democracy and related social transformations.

Work in Progress

Good Elites? Insurgent subalterns are commonly blamed for ‘populism’ and other stresses on democracy. This obscures the role of manipulative, exploitative, and predatory elites. In collaboration with Dilip Gaonkar, this book explores republicanism and other traditions articulating norms for good elites and reasons why many formations of social elites are problematic. Special attention falls on the notions that ‘merit’ and expertise can justify elite privilege or domination.

“Revolt against the Republic,” an analysis of efforts to disrupt the US electoral process and normative republican order in the name of direct expression of popular will, including the January 6th attack on the US Capitol.

Previous Publications (selected)

Struggles for Democracy

1982 - The Question of Class Struggle: Social Foundations of Popular Radicalism During the Industrial Revolution

1994 - Neither Gods nor Emperors: Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China

1994 - Science, Democracy and the Politics of Identity

1999 - Legacies of Radicalism

2012 - The Roots of Radicalism: Tradition, the Public Sphere, and Early 19th Century Social Movements

2013 - Occupy Wall Street in Perspective


1992 - Introduction: Habermas and the Public Sphere

1993 - Civil Society and Public Sphere

1996 - Critical Theory and the Public Sphere

1997 - Hannah Arendt and the Meaning of Politics

2002 - Imagining Solidarity: Cosmopolitanism, Constitutional Patriotism and the Public Sphere

2003 - Information Technology and the International Public Sphere

2003 - The Democratic Integration of Europe: Interests, Identity, and the Public Sphere

2007 - Media, Civil Society and the Rise of a Green Public Sphere in China

2008 - Citizenship, Secularism, and the Public Sphere

2008 - Media, Power, and Protest in China: From Cultural Revolution to the Internet

2010 - The Public Sphere and the Field of Power

2013 - The Problematic Public: Revisiting Dewey, Arendt, and Habermas

Social Foundations

1980 - Democracy, Autocracy and Intermediate Associations in Organizations: Flexibility or Un-restrained Change?

1989 - Social Theory and the Law: Systems Theory, Normative Justification and Postmodernism

1993 - Nationalism and Civil Society: Democracy, Diversity and Self-Determination

2007 - Nationalism and the Cultures of Democracy

2015 - Beyond Left and Right: A Cobbett for Our Times

2016 - Religion, Government and the Public Good


1988 - Populist Politics, Communications Media, and Large-Scale Social Integration

2017 - Populism, Nationalism, and Brexit

2020 - Populism and Democracy: the Long View

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