Democratic Failure

The Annual Conference of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy

Friday, September 28, 2018
The Charles River Room
10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

BU School of Law
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston MA 02215

We invite you to attend a conference on Democratic Failure to be held at Boston University School of Law on Friday, September 28. 

For some time, discourse about democracy in the United States and around the world has been marked by concerns about dysfunction, extreme partisanship, and deadlock. More recently, this discourse has taken a darker, even apocalyptic turn, to talk about crisis, failure, or death. What is democratic failure? Does it presuppose a conception of democratic success and of the preconditions for success? How does democratic failure differ from or relate to other political or constitutional maladies, such as dysfunction, crisis, or rot? How might a democracy fail? How might it be saved?

This interdisciplinary conference—the annual conference of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy (ASPLP)—will take up questions concerning democratic failure. (The ASPLP is an interdisciplinary society of law scholars, political scientists, and philosophers who are interested in exploring legal and political philosophy outside of their home disciplines.) The first principal paper, Representation Failure, is by political scientist Jane Mansbridge of Harvard University. The second, Du Bois’s Defense of Democracy, is by philosopher Derrick Darby of University of Michigan. The third paper, Democracy as Failure, is by law professor Aziz Z. Huq of University of Chicago. Each paper will be commented on by scholars from the other two disciplines. The ASPLP will publish the principal papers and commentaries in NOMOS, its annual book put out by New York University Press (to be edited by Melissa Schwartzberg and Daniel Viehoff).

Boston University School of Law, the new institutional home of the ASPLP, is honored and delighted to host the conference.

The conference is open to all. If you plan to attend, please RSVP here.

Anyone interested in political and legal philosophy who wishes to join the ASPLP should contact James E. Fleming, President of the ASPLP (, or Andrew Valls, Secretary-Treasurer of the ASPLP (

Schedule of Conference Panels & Speakers

Friday, September 28

All panels and the business meeting will take place at Boston University School of Law, 765 Commonwealth Avenue, in the Charles River Room (Room 525). Enter the Redstone Building and take the elevator to the fifth floor. There will be signs directing you to the Charles River Room.  

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m: Panel I: “Representation Failure”

Principal Paper: Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, Harvard Kennedy School

Commentators: Yasmin Dawood, University of Toronto and Michael Fuerstein, St. Olaf College



12:00 – 1:00 p.m: Lunch (Faculty Lounge, Room 1503)

1:00 – 3:00 p.m: Panel II: “Du Bois’s Defense of Democracy”

Principal Paper: Derrick Darby, Professor of Philosophy, University of Michigan

Commentators: Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School and Turkuler Isiksel, Columbia University



3:30– 5:30 p.m: Panel III: “Democracy as Failure”

Principal Paper: Aziz Z. HuqFrank and Bernice J. Greenberg Professor Law, The University of Chicago Law School

Commentators: Gerald Postema, University of North Carolina and Alexander Kirshner, Duke University