Newest Episode of Democracy in Question Podcast Features Leonard Benardo

The newest episode of the Democracy in Question podcast, hosted by Central European University (CEU) President and Rector, Shalini Randeria, features Leonard Benardo who is Executive Vice President of the Open Society Foundations. He served previously as Regional Director for Eurasia and the founding director of Open Society Fellowship Program.

Lenny is also a board member of the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, the European Humanities University in Lithuania, and of my own institution, the Central European University. Having worked in Russia, the Baltics, Poland, and Hungary earlier in his career with the Open Society Foundations, Lenny has witnessed, firsthand, the exhilarating atmosphere of the democratic transition in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, in which, of course, the Open Society Foundations was a central actor. But he has also been a thoughtful observer of all the countertrends against democracy, civil society, and rule of law in Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere in the world.

In this episode "Civil Society and the Politics and Practices of Civil Society Organizations" published October 26, Shalini and her guest discuss the changing valances of civil society over the last few decades. How can we assess today the geographically and historically specific understanding of civil society as a sphere outside of, and opposed to the realm of politics and state institutions and the market? Was this kind of view informed by a very specific political experience in Eastern and Central Europe, and could this limited understanding of civil society have unwittingly paved the way for some of the populist revolts that we have seen in recent years? Is it a mistake to equate civil society with emancipatory progressive ideas that disregard its potential for supporting regressive political agendas? What are the fundamental dilemmas about both the inherent plurality, and thus, the contradictory nature of civil society? Can we overcome some of these dilemmas by focusing on issues of systemic inequality and acknowledging the inextricable connection between the political economy of our globalized world and the fate of civic culture, both national, local, and transnational?

For each episode of Democracy in Question, Randeria invites a leading scholar or public figure to explore the challenges and dilemmas facing democracies around the world. Listen to the trailer and subscribe here.

Series five of Democracy in Question is produced in partnership with the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy at the Graduate Institute in Geneva (AHCD) where Randeria is a Senior Fellow. ACHD and the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna co-produced seasons one and two of the podcast.