UW-Madison: Conference to explore idea of popular sovereignty through key moments in U.S. politics

CONTACT: John Zumbrunnen, [email protected]

MADISON – Popular sovereignty – the idea that ultimate political authority rests with the people – is today widely accepted as the basis for legitimate democratic government.

Still, key questions remain, say political scientists. What does popular sovereignty look like – free elections? Protests in the streets?

A conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will explore the meaning of popular sovereignty in the past, present and future of American politics and political thought. Conference participants will examine the meaning of popular sovereignty at key moments in American political history.

“The dramatic electoral swings in the United States since 2006 and the contentious policy debates nationally and in Wisconsin after the elections point to the value of examining what popular sovereignty means in the United States,” according to conference organizer John Zumbrunnen, UW-Madison associate professor of political science and co-director of the American Democracy Forum. “The conference on popular sovereignty will explore how this founding principle influences our political thought and plays out in our daily politics.”

The one-day conference, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, at the Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St. A full conference program is available at http://www.adf.wisc.edu.

In addition to Zumbrunnen, UW-Madison faculty members participating in the conference include Howard Schweber, associate professor of political science and member of the board of directors of the Wisconsin Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy; Richard Avramenko, assistant professor of political science and integrated liberal studies; and Jimmy Casas Klausen, assistant professor of political science.

Other participants include distinguished scholars of American political thought and constitutional law from such institutions as American University, Duke University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Washington.

The conference is sponsored by the American Democracy Forum, which is co-directed by Zumbrunnen and John Coleman, professor and chair of the political science department. Housed in the Department of Political Science, the American Democracy Forum promotes the study of American political thought, the principles of the American founding and the place of those principles in the practice of contemporary American democracy. The forum’s activities are made possible by donors and the Jack Miller Center. The focus of the forum in 2010-11 is popular sovereignty; in 2011-12 it will be liberty.