Events | “The Meanings of Democracy“ – Melissa Williams, Rainer Forst & Zhao Tingyang in Conversation

Online | January 10, 2021

The Corona epidemic has resulted not only in the stagnation of many social processes, but also accelerated political change. Surveys show that a rapidly growing number of people already see China as the most important player in international relations. It is therefore particularly important to better understand China's history of political ideas and to develop common ideas for a just global order. Thomas Mann House and Goethe-Institut China bring three world-renowned thinkers into conversation with each other: American philosopher Melissa Williams (University of Toronto), Thomas Mann Fellow Rainer Forst (Goethe University Frankfurt) and Chinese philosopher Zhao Tingyang (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) discuss global justice and different understandings of democracy in light of their respective cultural contexts.

Click here to watch the premiere of the video on January 10, 11 a.m. (PST) / 20:00 (CET).


Rainer Forst is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy and Director of the Research Center “Normative Orders” at Goethe University Frankfurt. His research focuses on questions of justice, democracy and toleration as well as critical theory and practical reason. In 2012 he was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation. He is a Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. His most important publications are "Contexts of Justice" (Engl. 2002), "Toleration in Conflict" (2013), "The Right to Justification" (2012), "Justification and Critique" (2014) and "Normativity and Power" (2017); forthcoming is "Die noumenale Republik." Forst ist a 2021 Thomas Mann Fellow.


Zhao Tingyang is a professor and member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a senior fellow of Peking University Berggruen Research Institute. His theory of the "Tianxia System" (All-Under-Heaven), a theory of world order, tries to transcend Huntington’s “clashes of civilizations,” and advances an alternative to the Kantian conception of perpetual peace. He has published many books including "The Tianxia System: Reimaging Visions of Global Order from the Past and for the Future," and "The Whirlpool that Produced China: Stag Hunting on the Central Plains of China."



Melissa Williams is Professor of Political Science and founding Director of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto. Her general research focus is on contemporary democratic theory, a focus that frequently addresses core concepts in political philosophy through the lens of group-structured inequality, social and political marginalization and cultural and religious diversity. Williams is a former winner of the Leo Strauss Award and is currently editor of "NOMOS," the yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy.



Watch the Event


“The Meanings of Democracy“ is a collaboration between the Thomas Mann House and the Goethe-Institut China.



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