Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy

We are partisans for democracy

What does it mean to be a partisan for democracy? We don’t take sides on the political spectrum, but we do defend the rights everyone has as a democratic citizen — from voting to protesting to consuming information from a free press that serves as a check on political leaders.

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy draws from the humanities and social sciences to examine democracy from multiple angles. This cross-discipline collaboration is evident in our research, education, and outreach efforts.

We educate the next generation of democratic citizens through our Nevins Fellows program, monitor attitudes toward democracy with the Mood of the Nation poll, and host speakers and events that bring people from diverse backgrounds and points of view together to discuss the role of democracy in our society.

We make all of this happen in partnership with our centers of excellence, the Center for American Political Responsiveness and the Center for Democratic Deliberation, and many other organizations throughout the College of the Liberal Arts and the broader Penn State community.

Stay Informed:

Democracy Works Podcast

September 25, 2023 - 9:00 am

This week, we’re handing the microphone to Penn State student Joey Picarillo for an interview about the rise and fall of early democracies and what lessons we can learn from them today. Joey is a studying political science at Penn State World Campus and has already read many of the most influential books on democracy by Robert Dahl and others. He brought this book to our attention and did a wonderful job with the interview. 

Historical accounts of democracy’s rise tend to focus on ancient Greece and pre-Renaissance Europe. The Decline and Rise of Democracy by David Stasavage draws from global evidence to show that the story is much richer—democratic practices were present in many places, at many other times, from the Americas before European conquest, to ancient Mesopotamia, to precolonial Africa. Stasavage makes the case that understanding how and where these democracies flourished—and when and why they declined—can provide crucial information not just about the history of governance, but also about the ways modern democracies work and where they could manifest in the future.

 Stasavage is the Dean for the Social Sciences and the Julius Silver Professor in NYU’s Department of Politics and an Affiliated Professor in NYU’s School of Law. 

The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today

Upcoming Events

There are no upcoming events right now. Here are some of our most recent past events:

Sign up for our Newsletter