2018 Conference


The Academy of Philosophy & Letters

2018 Annual Conference

June 1-3, 2018

College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, College Park, MD

“Populism and the Failure of Elites”

It is no secret that political events of the past two years, including Brexit and of course Donald Trump’s nomination and election, have thrown a spotlight on “populism.”  Long a neglected topic, there is now widespread recognition of the importance of understanding what populism is, whether it is truly rising, and precisely what this means, for good or for ill.  The apparent rise of populism has likewise highlighted failures of elites.  While most obvious was the failure of elites to grasp public sentiment enough even to anticipate the victories of either Brexit or Trump, more important was the fact that those victories reflected longstanding, profound failures of elite governance and of elite economic and cultural dominance.  But who exactly are these elites, how and why have they failed, and how do we move forward?

Keynote speakers include Julius Krein (Editor, American Affairs), Joshua Mitchell (Georgetown University), and Michael Glennon (Tufts University). In addition, we anticipate four discussion panels at the 2018 APL conference.  We invite proposals, both from members and from potential guests, to participate on panels.  Participation will take the form of a cogent, polished presentation of ten to fifteen minutes (to be specified) on a specific topic, followed by panel discussion and audience Q&A.  

A proposal for panel participation should consist of about 300-500 words explaining your intended topic and approach.  We welcome proposals drawn from diverse disciplines:  philosophy, literature, history, political science, etc., as well as from varied forms of “real-world” or practitioner’s experience.

One panel, Populism and Foreign Policy, will be provided by The Catholic University of America’s Center for the Study of Statesmanship.  For the other three panels we welcome proposal submissions to APL.  We anticipate these panels to be:

  1. Populism and Conservatism.  Historically, populism and conservatism have usually been understood to be at odds with one another, but today they increasingly seem to go hand-in-hand.  What exactly is the relationship between populism and conservatism, and what should it be?  How does conservatism’s historical tendency to emphasize elite influence apply in today’s environment?
  2. Populism and Governance.  How does populism affect public policy, politics, and governance?  How populist is our government really, and how populist should it be?  What roles do elites of various sorts play, and how have those roles, and those elites, been changing?  What does past experience teach us about how to make governance better today?
  3. Populism and the Culture.  How populist is our culture, how has this been changing, and precisely what effects does populism have?  What roles have elites played in our culture?  How can culture contribute to improved social and political conditions?  What is the best way to move toward cultural recovery in today’s world, and how do populism and elites relate to such efforts?  

Presentation proposals should be sent by January 19, as MS Word files to james.m.wilson@villanova.edu.  Please include at the top of your proposal the panel number and name for which you believe it is most suited.  If you have any reason to believe that you might not be able to attend the entire conference, it is important to indicate your availability constraints.