Themester 2020

Themester 2020 is Democracy

 “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
George Bernard Shaw

Since ancient Greece, the problem of how to “make democracy work” has challenged theorists and practitioners. Coinciding with Fall 2020’s U.S. presidential election, Themester’s Democracy focus engages a global interdisciplinary debate at a critical moment. At no time since the 1930s has democracy been as challenged. Global optimism over democratic transitions has given way to contestation over minority rights, democratic back-sliding, and the rise of populism. These trajectories raise concerns about the potential for an intractable democratic crisis that will affect both younger democracies and established systems.

Themester 2020 will look at factors leading to democratic continuity and change. The College will explore such issues as democracy’s “rules of the game,” media bubbles, fake news, and schisms between science and faith that limit debate and harden political opinions. We will examine the compatibility of capitalism and democracy and how social divisions—some concrete, others manufactured—can be resolved through democratic processes. Recognizing that democratic culture is informed by public discourse, we will explore how artists of all types interpret the concept of democracy and provide the symbols that shape conversations.

Democracy implies a system of rule of law and the protection of individual rights. But democracy pertains to more than politics and government. The theme invokes an approach to organizational decision-making, a way of communicating with one another, and a social good. In politics, in corporate boardrooms, in society, in art, and in science, democratic principles are defined through contestation, conversation, and practice. This multi-faceted exploration of democracy—how it works, its vulnerabilities, and its future relevance—will place the College at the forefront of critical conversations that are on-going on campus and throughout the nation. 

Questions may be addressed to Themester coordinator Tracy Bee at or 812 856-7183.