In spring 2021, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters presented a series of four online discussions that explore the cultural and philosophical roots of American democracy, from the democratic experiment in ancient Greece to the influence of Indigenous governing systems. For the Roots of Democracy series, scholars and experts from a range of disciplines—classics, ethics, political science, First Nations studies, and law—offered conversational presentations that explore questions about inherent rights, responsibilities, participation, and the tensions between social good and individual freedom.
Together we examined how different approaches to participatory democracy have informed our present Constitution, and consider what we can still learn from these democracies to forge a “more perfect” union in the future. This series took a particularly close look at several traditions of Indigenous governance and the fundamental conflicts that challenge the relationships between First Nations and the U.S. government. To further the conversation, videos of each presentation are archived on our website, along with reading lists and links to additional resources.
During the series, we also had an active Roots of Democracy Group on Facebook to discuss topics and connect with other people interested in the complex and diverse origins of America's guiding principle.