(Run time: 107 minutes)
Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What Is Democracy? reflects on a word we too often take for granted.
Director Astra Taylor’s idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor.
Featuring a diverse cast—including celebrated theorists, trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, and former prime ministers—this urgent film connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Michael MacKenzie, University of Pittsburgh professor of Political Science.
Michael MacKenzie’s research interests include democratic theory, intergenerational relations, deliberation, political representation, institutional design, and public engagement. Much of his work focuses on the political theory of intergenerational relations and the challenges of making long-term decisions in democratic systems. He recently helped design and conduct a laboratory experiment to explore the relationship between deliberation and long-term thinking. He is also a research partner with Participedia, an open-source, online encyclopedia and database of public engagement processes used around the world.
Professor MacKenzie holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia (2013) and a Master’s degree in Political Science and Social Statistics from McGill University (2006). In 2006-07 he worked as a policy analyst and facilitator with the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. Before coming to the University of Pittsburgh he was a Democracy Fellow and post-doctoral researcher at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School.