Adam Gopnik

Adam Gopnik Photo, Black & White

Adam Gopnik

The National Emergency: On Liberal Institutions, Protecting Pluralism, and Free Debate
Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024 12:00 pm

As the race towards the 2024 election takes center stage, bestselling author and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik shares a political message to voters — one that isn't about politics.

In his talk at the Townsend Center, Gopnik examines the ways in which the institutions of liberal democracy that superintend all political arguments are this year threatened in ways they have never been before. He asks, how unique in human history are the institutions we take for granted? Looking closely at the practices that guarantee everything from free debate (including debate that questions the foundations of liberalism) to the protection of sexual minorities, Gopnik reflects on how utterly fragile they are to assault.

Gopnik's recent pieces in the New Yorker have urged readers to consider how the pursuit of political projects favored by many on the left — including gun control, abortion rights, and an end to incarceration — is meaningless without the architecture of liberal democracy to guarantee free debate. He notes the ease with which Americans of all ages take a pluralism of politics and parties for granted, without recognizing it as a vanishingly rare practice that is easily destroyed by those who don't want it, from both left and right alike. He argues that this is the moment to protect the possibility of genuine political freedom with arguments of logic, history, and conscience.

A New Yorker writer since 1986, Adam Gopnik has served as the magazine’s art critic and Paris correspondent. His numerous books include Paris to the Moon and, most recently, The Real Work: On the Mystery of Mastery. He has won three National Magazine Awards and the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting.


This event is made possible by the generosity of Humanities West, San Francisco.