Guests: The Promise and Peril of Democracy

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we ask our guests, is neoliberalism undermining European democracy?

Peter Akos Bod
Peter Akos Bod is director of the Institute of Economics at Corvinus University of Budapest, as well as the vice chairman of the Hungarian Economic Society. He served as Hungary’s minister of industry and trade between 1990 and 1991, and governor of the Hungarian National Bank from 1991 to 1994. After his time at the bank, he spent three years representing East Central European countries on the board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London.

Zoltan Bodnar
Zoltan Bodnar is the former vice governor of the National Bank of Hungary. He has served as chairman of the board at the Hungarian International Bank Ltd. and the Budapest Stock Exchange’s Council. Bodnar also has held CEO positions at CIB Bank, Hungarian Infrastructure Development Inc., and Eximbank.

Christine Dahn
The leading rock and roll DJ and radio personality in East Berlin in the 1980s, Christine Dahn hosted the show ‘DT 64.’ The program brought East Germans the music of well-known national artists, along with stars from the other side of the Iron Curtain, such as Tangerine Dream. Dahn is author of the book “Uber sieben Brucken musst Du geh’n” (You Must Cross Seven Bridges), about the popular German band Karat, founded in East Berlin in 1975.

David Graeber
American David Graeber is a professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and longtime activist and anarchist. A leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, Graeber is the author of The Democracy Project (Random House) and numerous other books. Follow him on Twitter @davidgraeber

Ulrike Guerot
Ulrike Guerot is director of the Berlin-based European Democracy Lab, which facilitates discussions on restructuring the region’s approach to democracy. A journalist and analyst, Guerot has written extensively on transatlantic issues and works with the Open Society Initiative for Europe. She previously worked at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. Follow her on Twitter @ulrikeguerot

Agnes Heller
Born and raised in Budapest’s Jewish ghetto in the 1930s, Agnes Heller escaped deportation to the Auschwitz concentration camp to become a renowned philosopher. Her father, however, was killed by the Nazis. A member of the Budapest School and a pupil of Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukacs, Heller migrated to Australia in 1977, and developed her work on ethics and political philosophy. She later moved to New York, where she taught at the New School for Social Research for 25 years until she returned to Hungary. In 2010, she received Germany’s prestigious Goethe Medal.

Aladar Horvath
As founder of the Civil Rights Movement for the Republic and spokesman for the Hungarian Gypsy Party, Aladar Horvath is a leader in Hungarian Roma rights. He previously served as a member of the Hungarian Parliament for the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) party.

Christoph Lanz
Christoph Lanz is a German journalist who helped organise the 1987 Concert for Berlin for Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) 2, the music-oriented broadcasting service of the US occupation authority in Germany during the Cold War. In 1990, Lanz moved to RIAS TV, which was later disbanded and taken over by Deutsche Welle after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He served as director of television and multimedia programs at Deutsche Welle until November 2013. Follow Lanz on Twitter @chrislanz

Kornelia Magyar
Kornelia Magyar is director of the Hungarian Progressive Institute in Budapest, examining methods that deepen democratic political culture. She worked as a political analyst in the office of Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany between 2006 and 2007.

Thomas Natschinski
Singer-songwriter Thomas Natschinski started his musical career early, frontlining the Beatles-inspired TEAM 4 at 16 years old. In 1965, amid tensions between the democratic West and communist East, many East German musical groups were banned and TEAM 4 took Natschinski’s name to sound less Western. He later formed the band Bread and Salt and went on to exclusively write music. He is considered one of Germany’s most successful composers.

Gero Neugebauer
Political scientist Gero Neugebauer is a professor emeritus at the Free University of Berlin. His research focuses on the German political system before 1990, East Germany political parties, elections and choice theory.

David Runciman
A former columnist for The Guardian newspaper, British political scientist David Runciman now writes for the London Review of Books and teaches politics at Cambridge University. He is the author of several books, including The Politics of Good Intentions and The Confidence Trap (Princeton University Press).

Jeffrey Sachs
US economist Jeffrey Sachs advised Poland and Russia in the 1990s, during the transition from communism to a market system. He currently is director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, as well as a special advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals. Described by the New York Times as “probably the most important economist in the world,” Sachs is on Twitter @JeffDSachs

Michael Sturmer
Leading German historian Michael Sturmer is a chief correspondent with the national daily newspaper and former speechwriter for Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He has authored several books on German, European and Russian history and politics, including Putin and the Rise of Russia (Pegasus).

Tzvetan Todorov
A self-described “historian of ideas,” Tzvetan Todorov is considered a pillar of the study of linguistics, particularly in the field of Semiotics. The Franco-Bulgarian philosopher is director of research at the French National Social Sciences Research Center in Paris, and his work has been translated into 25 languages. His latest book,The Inner Enemies of Democracy (Polity Press), argues the biggest threat to democracy is democracy itself, not international terrorism or other external factors.

Daniel Trilling
Daniel Trilling is editor of the magazine New Humanist and former assistant editor of New Statesman. His book Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain’s Far Right (Verso Books) was longlisted for Britain’s Orwell Prize for outstanding writing. Follow him on Twitter @trillingual

Marco Wilms
Documentary filmmaker Marco Wilms was born in 1966, in former East Berlin. Before the reunification of Germany, he worked as a graphic designer and a model, using his artistic passion as a form of self-expression and resistance. His 2008 film Comrade Couture: Revisiting Communist Germany’s Fashion Scene explores the underground fashion scene in East Germany. His most recent film, Art War, tells the story about young graffiti artists in Egypt who use art as a means of political resistance. Follow him on Twitter @ComradeCouture

Slavoj Zizek
Slovenian-born Marxist philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek is a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. He has been called the “Elvis Presley” of philosophy and, according to British literary theorist Terry Eagleton, “formidably brilliant”. Zizek has authored dozens of books, including The Sublime Object of Ideology, Living in the End Times (Verso Books) and, most recently, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously (Verso Books). He is also the writer and star of the film The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. Follow him on Twitter @Szizekian

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