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Summer Quarter

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Tuesdays, 5:30 - 7:00 pm (PT) • 8 weeks • April 11 – May 30

Join us on campus or online!

The United States, once a key champion of democracy around the world, has experienced unprecedented polarization during
the past decade, with divisions running deep over Covid, voting rights and election results, and questions of identity and inclusion. These divisions have only been exacerbated by America’s own tech companies, whose business models encourage citizens to engage with divisive content rather than a healthy democratic process. Divided domestically and embracing new strains of illiberalism, the US has also retreated internationally, neglecting traditional alliances and its commitment to
democracy abroad. That America has struggled to defend democracy abroad isn’t an accident.
It’s directly related to the dents in its democracy at home.

Democracy is in decline worldwide. Old democracies are not performing as well as before. Growing competition between democratic and authoritarian countries is playing out on the global stage, with several countries undecided as to their alignment either way. Infrastructure investments, strategic alignments, and soft power are all part of the mix of geopolitical tools deployed in this competition. The same holds true for technology, which deeply impacts power relationships, values, and freedoms across the globe. Can the US sustain democracy abroad, let alone at home? It’s not a given.

This course will explore the battle for the future of democracy. We will examine the merits of democracy compared with the alternatives, challenges to democracy both in the United States and around the world, and solutions for defending and advancing democracy at home and abroad. A political philosopher, a former European parliamentarian, and a former US ambassador to Russia, the course instructors bring together a unique set of experiences that guarantee thoughtful and provocative discussions about one of the most important issues of our time.
SECTION A (In-Person):
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SECTION B (Online):
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Course Instructors:
Rob Reich
Professor of Political Science, Stanford
Rob Reich is the director of the Center for Ethics in Society, co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and an associate director of the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. His most recent books are System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot (with Mehran Sahami and Jeremy M. Weinstein) and Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better.

Michael McFaul
Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies, Department of Political Science; Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford

Michael McFaul joined the Stanford faculty in 1995. He is an International Affairs Analyst for NBC News and a columnist for The Washington Post. He served in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009–2012), and then as US Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012–2014). He has authored several books, most recently From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.

Marietje Schaake
International Policy Director, Cyber Policy Center; International Policy Fellow, Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, Stanford
Marietje Schaake was a member of the European Parliament for the Dutch Liberal Democratic Party from 2009 to 2019, where she focused on trade, foreign affairs, and technology policies. She is an advisory board member for a number of nonprofits, including MERICS, eCFR, ORF, and AccessNow. Schaake writes a monthly column for the Financial Times.