John Keane is Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB). He is the Director of the newly-founded Sydney Democracy Network (SDN). Renowned globally for his creative thinking about democracy, John Keane was educated at the Universities of Adelaide and Toronto (where he was mentored by C.B.Macpherson) and King’s College, University of Cambridge.
Well before the European revolutions of 1989, he first came to public prominence as a defender of ‘civil society’ and the democratic opposition in central and eastern Europe. His political and scholarly writing during that period was often published under the pen name Erica Blair. In 1989 he founded the world’s first Centre for the Study of Democracy in London. During his many years living in Europe, The Times ranked him one of Britain’s leading political thinkers and writers whose work has 'world-wide importance'. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has described him as “one of Australia’s great intellectual exports".
Among his best-known books are The Media and Democracy (translated into more than 25 languages); the best-selling biography Tom Paine: A Political Life (2009); a new interpretation of the gains and losses of globalisation Global Civil Society? (2003); Violence and Democracy (2004); and the recently published Democracy and Media Decadence (2013). He writes a column for the London/Melbourne-based web platform The Conversation. His Life and Death of Democracy was short-listed for the 2010 Non-Fiction Prime Minister's Literary Award. It is the first full-scale history of democracy for over a century. Portuguese, Greek, Brazilian and Japanese translations have appeared and Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Arabic editions are on their way.
Disquiet and disaffection are spreading through the drought fields of democracy. The trends demand unorthodox political thinking, a new sense of urgency about democracy’s strengths and weaknesses. But fresh democratic thinking requires different methods of saying things, of exposing silences and taken-for-granted presumptions. The academic article and the book are poorly suited to the task. Notebooks are a better medium for doing these things: they’re a democratic form of writing, as I try to show in a new column for the Melbourne-based web platform The Conversation. Made up of broken and interrupted fragments, they grip the ground but don’t suppose they own it. The democracy notebooks expose perplexities and pose question marks. But as you read them please remember: there are no known maps, timetabled destinations or guaranteed safe passages.
The Democracy Field Notes series is also available to Spanish readers.
Young supporters of newly-elected independent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je celebrate his victory in Taipei, Saturday 29th November 2014 CNA This is the final contribution to a five-part series of field notes covering the background dynamics and global significance of last Saturday’s fiercely fought ‘nine-in-one’ elections in Taiwan. The great choosing day in Taiwan is over […]
KMT press conference in the southern city of Kaoshiung, earlier this week John Keane This is the fourth in a series covering the background and dynamics of last Saturday’s fiercely fought ‘nine-in-one’ elections in Taiwan. The great choosing day in Taiwan is just hours away and it is no exaggeration to say that the country […]
Chiang Kai-shek bronze statues, rescued from oblivion, Cihu Memorial Sculpture Park, near Dasi township, Taiwan John Keane This is the third in a series covering the background and current dynamics of this Saturday’s fiercely fought ‘nine-in-one’ elections in Taiwan. As recently as two decades ago, free and fair elections were unimaginable for most citizens of […]
Gaomei Wetland, on the central coastline of Taiwan Chi Po-lin This is the second in a series covering the background and current dynamics of this week’s important ‘nine-in-one’ elections in Taiwan. Among the surprise political developments of the final decades of last century was the birth of a lively young democracy on a thickly forested, […]
The world’s tallest green skyscraper, Taipei 101, stands 508 metres above the streets of Taipei’s Xinyi district For democrats, made in Taiwan is a seductive brand with definite global appeal. ‘Through the promotion of its democratic ideals’, says a stylishly confident pamphlet published recently by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Taiwan has managed to […]
Gough Whitlam, addressing supporters on the day of his dismissal, November 11, 1975 ABC Edward Gough Whitlam has passed on, leaving behind millions of citizens saddened by scores of eloquent obituaries reminding us how, once upon a time, Australian politics produced world-class leaders courageously committed to the public good. I must confess I shed tears upon hearing […]
By John Keane PHOTO: Protesters play ping-pong on a main road at the Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong. (Tyrone Siu) The dwindling but still determined protesters in Hong Kong now face a vicious media assault on everything they stand for by central party propagandists in Beijing, writes John Keane. Now entering its third week, its numbers dwindling […]
The following John Keane’s interview with Claude Leblanc, ‘Beijing has misjudged the situation in Hong Kong’, appeared in the Paris-based newspaper, L’opinion, 30 September 2014. John Keane, professeur de sciences politiques à l’Université de Sydney et au Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin Vous avez déclaré que la situation à Hongkong pouvait dégénérer en un second Tiananmen. Qu’est-ce qui vous amène à […]
By John Keane Are political developments in Hong Kong heading for a second Tiananmen massacre? A fortnight ago, partly to provoke discussion, partly to sound an alarm, I suggested in a radio interview that unless the Chinese government wisely handled the fast-unfolding dynamics, things in Hong Kong might well come to that. At the time, it seemed […]
Pushed and pulled in different directions by government policies and market forces, modern universities try hard to be public institutions for the public good. Fond of proclamations, their efforts are impressive – sources of hope in times when many people feel things are not going well. (Image left – The University of Sydney Quadrangle) The […]