Democracy Paradox Podcast

The Democracy Paradox podcast brings scholars from political science, sociology, economics, and other disciplines to discuss social and political ideas. The aim is not to debate policy or politics, but to introduce new concepts to listeners so they can understand politics and society better. The host, Justin Kempf, works to create conversations that test our assumptions about democratic governance, while offering hope for the success of democratic ideals. 

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A Podcast About Democracy

Episodes have explored concepts as broad as civil resistance, Russian conservatism, populism, and direct democracy. Guests have ranged from Ivy League professors to former elected officials. Many episodes have featured scholars from around the world including Israel, Greece, and Germany. Episodes regularly integrate big picture concepts with current events and history to make difficult ideas come alive. 

The Democracy Paradox podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and just about anywhere podcasts are found. It is a proud member of the Democracy Group network of podcasts. Please subscribe and leave a review wherever possible. Your support keeps this website and the podcast alive. Below is a list of past episodes.

Most Recent

Kathryn Stoner on How Putin’s War has Ruined Russia

Scott Radnitz on Why Conspiracy Theories Thrive in Both Democracies and Autocracies

Ronald Deibert from Citizen Lab on Cyber Surveillance, Digital Subversion, and Transnational Repression

Thomas Piketty on Equality

Marta Dyczok and Andriy Kulokov on the Media, Information Warriors, and the Future of Ukraine

Yascha Mounk on the Great Experiment of Diverse Democracies

Mark Beissinger on Urban Civic Revolutions

Craig Whitlock on the Lessons Learned in Afghanistan

Miles Rapoport on How We Can Achieve Universal Voting

Between Russia and China: Anja Mihr on Central Asia

Moisés Naím on the New Dynamics of Political Power

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili and Ilia Murtazashvili on Afghanistan, Local Institutions, and Self-Governance

Sarah Repucci from Freedom House with an Update on Freedom in the World

Elisabeth Ivarsflaten and Paul Sniderman on Inclusion and Respect of Muslim Minorities

Debasish Roy Chowdhury and John Keane on the Decline of Indian Democracy

Elizabeth Perry and Grzegorz Ekiert on State-Mobilized Movements

Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley on the Political Logic of Criminal Wars in Mexico

What is Democracy?

Lisa Disch on Representation, Constituencies, and Political Leadership

Zeynep Pamuk on the Role of Science and Expertise in a Democracy

Tom Ginsburg Shares his Thoughts on Democracy and International Law

Chris Bickerton Defines Technopopulism

Kajri Jain Believes Democracy Unfolds through the Aesthetic

Bryn Rosenfeld on Middle Class Support for Dictators in Autocratic Regimes

Zizi Papacharissi Dreams of What Comes After Democracy

James Loxton Explains Why Authoritarian Successor Parties Succeed in Democracies

Hélène Landemore on Democracy without Elections

Carolyn Hendriks, Selen Ercan and John Boswell on Mending Democracy


Joseph Wright and Abel Escribà-Folch on Migration’s Potential to Topple Dictatorships

Donald Horowitz on the Formation of Democratic Constitutions

Michael Miller on the Unexpected Paths to Democratization

Elizabeth Nugent on Polarization, Democratization and the Arab Spring

Jonathan Pinckney on Civil Resistance Transitions

Democracy Under Threat

Sara Wallace Goodman on Citizen Responses to Democratic Threats

Stephan Haggard and Robert Kaufman on Democratic Backsliding

Caitlin Andrews-Lee on Charismatic Movements and Personalistic Leaders

Karen Greenberg on the War on Terror, Donald Trump, and American Democracy

Jan-Werner Müller on Democracy Rules

Freedom House: Sarah Repucci Assesses Freedom in the World

Can Democracy Survive the Internet? Nate Persily and Josh Tucker on Social Media and Democracy

Can America Preserve Democracy without Retreating from it? Robert C. Lieberman on the Four Threats

Thomas Carothers and Andrew O’Donohue are Worried About Severe Polarization

World Affairs

Joshua Yaffa on Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin’s Russia

Timothy Frye Says Putin is a Weak Strongman

Kathryn Stoner on Russia’s Economy, Politics, and Foreign Policy

Roger Lee Huang on Myanmar

Christophe Jaffrelot on Narendra Modi and Hindu Nationalism

Sebastian Strangio Explains the Relationship Between China and Southeast Asia

Nic Cheeseman and Gabrielle Lynch on the Moral Economy of Elections in Africa

Mareike Ohlberg on the Global Influence of the Chinese Communist Party

Xiaoyu Pu on China’s Global Identities

Amy Erica Smith on Politics and Religion in Brazil

United States

Robert Lieberman, Kenneth Roberts, and David Bateman on Democratic Resilience and Political Polarization in the United States

Derek W. Black Says Public Education Represents the Idea of America… Not its Reality

Sheryl WuDunn Paints a Picture of Poverty in America and Offers Hope for Solutions

Ross Benes on Nebraska and Rural Conservatism

Chad Alan Goldberg on the Wisconsin Idea and the Role of the Public University in a Democracy

Lee Drutman Makes the Case for Multiparty Democracy in America

William G. Howell and Terry M. Moe on the Presidency

Donald F. Kettl on Federalism

Ryan Salzman is an Evangelist for Placemaking

Mallory SoRelle on the Politics of Consumer Credit


Daniel Brinks on the Politics of Institutional Weakness

Susan Rose-Ackerman on the Role of the Executive in Four Different Democracies

Rana Siu Inboden on China and the International Human Rights Regime


Joseph Fishkin on the Constitution, American History, and Economic Inequality

Angus Deaton on Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

Amory Gethin on Political Cleavages, Inequality, and Party Systems in 50 Democracies

Robert Meister Believes Justice is an Option

Aldo Madariaga on Neoliberalism, Democratic Deficits, and Chile

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson on the Plutocratic Populism of the Republican Party

Big Ideas

Bilal Baloch on Indira Gandhi, India’s Emergency, and the Importance of Ideas in Politics

Zoltan Barany on the Ineffectiveness of the Gulf Militaries

Shari Davis Elevates Participatory Budgeting

Mike Hoffman on How Religious Identities Influence Support for or Opposition to Democracy

Winston Mano on Social Media and Politics in Africa… And what America can Learn from Africa about Democracy

Glenn Tiffert on the Manipulation of Academia by Foreign Governments

John Matsusaka on National Referendums

George Lawson on Revolution

Erica Chenoweth on Civil Resistance

Yael Tamir on Nationalism


Martin Conway Believes “Democracy Owes its Durability Not to its Principles but to its Flexibility.” Democracy in Western Europe from 1945 to 1968

Charles Kupchan on America’s Tradition of Isolationism

Dorothy Sue Cobble on the Full Rights Feminists

Kurt Weyland Distinguishes Between Fascism and Authoritarianism

David Stasavage on Early Democracy and its Decline

Michael Hughes on the History of Democracy in Germany

Daniel Carpenter Revisits the Petition in 19th Century America

John Ikenberry on Liberal Internationalism

Paul Robinson on Russian Conservatism

Agnes Cornell and Svend-Erik Skaaning on the Interwar Period

Early Episodes

Barbara Freese on Corporate Denial

Jill Long Thompson on Character in a Democracy

Juliet B. Schor on the Sharing Economy

John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch on Citizen Initiative Review

Joshua J. Dyck and Edward L. Lascher, Jr. on Initiative Referendums

William S. Smith on Irving Babbitt

Takis Pappas on Populism and Liberal Democracy

Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon on the End of American Hegemony

Luis Cabrera on International Human Rights

Marlene Mauk on Citizen Support for Democracies… and Autocracies

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