Authoritarianism and Democracy: Austria, Germany and Europe, 1918-2018

Sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf wrote in 1997 that “a century of authoritarianism is by no means the least likely prognosis for the 21st century”. Due to economic globalization and digitalization, changes in the realms of life and work are vast and far-reaching, with profound consequences for democracy. This development, however, is not new—a look at globalization from the end of World War I to post-1945 Europe reveals comparable crises. Bridging literary, historical, economic and technological perspectives, this two-day conference examines the successes, and failures, of democracies, and analyzes a possible return of anti-democratic trends, both in present-day Europe and internationally.

10am-12pm Roundtable discussion

The final discussion will consist in a critical evaluation of Dahrendorf’s forecast of a period of “authoritarian constitutions,” with the “consolation” that “they are neither as catastrophic nor as precarious as totalitarian dictatorships.” An attempt will be made to develop concrete new political, cultural and economic framework conditions for the stabilization of Western-style parliamentary democracies.


Wolfgang Petritsch
Oliver Rathkolb
David Large
Lukas Repa
John Connelly
Ruth Klüger (Prof Emerita, Department of European Studies / Department of German, UC Irvine)
Christoph Hermann (Dept. of Sociology, UC Berkeley)

Deniz Göktürk (Chair, Department of German, UC Berkeley)

Jeroen Dewulf