Sustaining Democracy Series: Phobias, Taboos, and Freedom of Expression

Panel Discussion 12.00AM-12.00AM *Fall 1991
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Through a generous grant from Vera List, the New School instituted a series called "Sustaining Democracy" in the fall of 1991, the Bicentennial of the Bill of Rights. This lecture inaugurates a continuing dialogue titled "Crises in American Life: Sustaining Democracy." The goal is to explore the scope and context of current public issues that involve the heart and mind of the democratic ethos. We examine common goals and points of tension in the values of our democratic civic culture, which wants to exalt both individualism and community simultaneously. Discussion is based on such issues as government sponsorship of art, censorship, and the roles of artist and citizen.

In order to address issues which strike at the heart of democratic concerns, we propose a series of public lectures which bring major thinkers in the fields of politics and culture to the New School. American democracy, in theory if not always in practice, has been concerned with individual rights and community responsibilities. We can, in fact, read the story of the country in terms of a balancing act, with individualism at one end of the see-saw and the idea of the general welfare at the other.

One pressing question for us is: How can we continue to value a democratic civic culture and allow that culture to reflect different kinds of voices? How can we achieve genuine consensus and allow for the differences particular to the heterogeneity of the American populace? The Vera List Center, given its historical concern with people whose voices may have been silenced in the past, is the appropriate place to continue a New School tradition of being the site for civic dialogue.

In cooperation with The Museum of Modern Art, Philip Yenawine, Director of Education at MOMA

C. Carr, staff writer for The Village Voice & Artforum
Stephen Gillers, Professor of Law, NYU Law School
Nat Hentoff, member of PEN, columnist for The Village Voice, Washington Post, and The New Yorker
Joel Kovel, Professor at Bard College
Carole S. Vance, Associate Research Scientist, Columbia University
Philip Yenawine, Director of Education, Museum of Modern Art "