Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
05 November 2020

Kim Lane Scheppele, Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Princeton University, is the guest of our podcast series “Democracy in Question?”

In her conversation with Shalini Randeria released today, she discusses the undermining of democracy by democratic means.

As the results of the 2020 US election are trickling in, we are exploring how laws - and notably electoral laws - can be used to dismantle the constitutional systems from within. The undermining of democracy evokes sharp images of authoritarianism and a contempt for libertarianism. Instead, what we are facing today is a deceptive onslaught through political and legal machinations, hollowing out the fundamental processes of freedom that lie at the heart of democracy and institutional legitimacy. In the third episode of Democracy in Question?, podcast host Shalini Randeria asks Kim Lane Scheppele how liberal principles and institutions are being subverted while using electoral majorities. They explore democracy’s “democratic undoing” by elected leaders who use democratic mandates to undermine and subvert the constitutional systems of checks and balances that they inherited. Referring to this phenomenon, Kim Lane Scheppele has coined the provocative term of “autocratic legalism” to explain the rise of soft authoritarian regimes. Her conversation with Shalini Randeria focuses on these developments, uncovering the origins and threats to democracy and exploring prescriptions for the resurgence of democracy.

Download the podcast's transcript HERE.

Subscribe to the podcast series from all your preferred platforms and review it!

Shalini Randeria is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Director of the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. She is also the Rector of the Institute of Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna, and Excellence Chair, University of Bremen (Research Group: Soft Authoritarianism).

Kim Lane Scheppele is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. Her work focuses on the intersection of constitutional and international law, particularly in constitutional systems under stress.

Also watch the public lecture that Professor Scheppele gave last fall at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, titled “The Life and Death of Constitutions”.


This podcast series is co-produced by the Graduate Institute’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) Vienna, in cooperation with the Excellence Chair, University of Bremen (Research Group: Soft Authoritarianism).

New logo Democracy in Question.png