Respected Commentators


In Public Discourse in America: Conversation and Community in the Twenty-First Century, a distinguished group of scholars and prominent figures offers thoughtful perspectives on the conduct of public life in contemporary America. Originating in a shared concern that our civic culture was becoming coarser and more polarized, Public Discourse in America provides a critical corrective to this widespread misperception about declining civility in public culture and the ways we as citizens negotiate our differences.

Together these essays explore the current condition and centrality of public discourse in our democracy, investigating how it has changed through our history and whether it fails to approach our widely held, but often unarticulated, ideal of "reasoned and reasonable" public deliberation. Contributors consider whether rationality is really the best standard for public discussion and argument, and isolate the features and principles that would characterize a truly exemplary, more productive public discourse at the beginning of the twenty-first century. They investigate why public conversations work when they work well, and why they often fail when we need them the most, as in our nation's so often aborted "national conversation" on race. Altogether, these essays speak to urgent and perennial questions about the nature of American society, the responsibilities of leaders, the rules of democracy, and the role of public culture in times of crisis, conflict, and rapid change. Public Discourse in America originated in the work of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture, and Community, convened in 1996 by Judith Rodin, President of the University of Pennsylvania.


Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama is an American political scientist, political economist, and author. Fukuyama is known for his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992), which argued that the worldwide spread of liberal democracies and free market capitalism of the West and its lifestyle may signal the end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and become the final form of human government. Fukuyama has been a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies since July 2010 and a Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. He is a council member of the International Forum for Democratic Studies founded by the National Endowment for Democracy. His book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment is definitely relevant for the 2020 presidential election process now underway.


In Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, which has been nominated for a National Book Award, Arilie Hochschild explores what she defines as this country’s “Great Paradox” — the fact that people who clearly need federal help hate it and are opposed to much of what it stands for and tries to accomplish. In “Strangers” traverses all across Louisiana on an energetic, open-minded quest to decipher this troublesome paradox. Hochschild is a distinguished Berkeley sociologist, a woman of the left. But her mission is empathy, not polemics. She takes seriously the Tea Partiers’ complaints that they have become the “strangers” of the title — triply marginalized by flat or falling wages, rapid demographic change, and liberal culture that mocks their faith and patriotism. Her affection for her characters is palpable.


 Sam Harris is an American author and Maajid Nawaz is a British activist. In 2020 they recorded a dialogue between them and published a book titled Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue that features the exchange between Harris, an atheist and a critic of religion, and Nawaz, an Islamist-turned-liberal activist. 

Harris argues that the doctrines of Islam are dangerous while Nawaz defends Islam by arguing that those dangerous doctrines have been circumvented by the tradition. Nawaz further argues that like any other religion, Islam is open to reform and will find its place in a secular world. The YouTube video and the book were published with the explicit purpose of furthering difficult conversations about Islam without "devolving into bigotry or caricature". The book also explores the differences between the religion of Islam and the ideology of Islamism.