DCC Annual Themes
Current 2012-2013 Theme: Constitution Making
In Philadelphia in 1787, Americans pioneered the creation of written constitutions to empower, guide and limit national
governments. Today, most modern regimes have such constitutions. But some do not, and many depart sharply from
the American model. In 2012-2013, the Penn DCC program will explore how and why constitutions have been and are being made around the world, seeking to illuminate how constitutionalism can be strengthened in the 21st century.
2011-2012 Theme: Corporations and Citizens. Modern business corporations receive charters from and operate within the legal frameworks of national states. Though they organize and regulate much of the daily lives of a considerable portion of humanity, and though they impact the planet more generally, corporations are not themselves typically constituted internally around ideals such as democracy, citizenship, and egalitarianism, which are associated instead with national political culture. How did corporations as social institutions develop historically, and what role have they played in the rise of modern democratic states? What are and by right ought to be the responsibilities of corporations to their owners, to those who work for them, to the nations in which they operate, and to the planet more generally? What are the national and international roles and responsibilities of multinational corporations who, in the 21st century, often operate on a global scale — and what should they be? How have corporations affected different parts of the world, from Europe and North America, to Latin America, the Middle East, East and South Asia, and Africa? These are some of the questions we explore in the DCC program for 2011-2012.
2010-2011 Theme: Race, Ethnicity, National Minorities and Citizenship. Modern constitutional democracies confront many problems of how far citizenship should be structured to express, accommodate, or trump racial and ethnic identities. For example, are racially or ethnically-based representation and affirmative action in employment in education (banned in some modern constitutional democracies, required in many others) ever appropriate? If so, when and why? How far should minority cultural identities be accommodated in public institutions? Are reparations required for unjustly treated indigenous communities or racial minorities? These topics are scheduled for both empirical and normative study in 2010-2011.
2009-2010 Theme: Sovereignty, Territoriality, and Plural Citizenships: Today traditional claims of national sovereignty are being challenged via the growth of dual national citizenships; the creation of supra-national forms of economic and political community; and the devolution of political and economic authority in many federal or federated systems. More and more people around the globe possess plural citizenships, with no clear single sovereign governing them. What is driving these developments? In what respects are they normatively defensible or undesirable? These are the topics to be explored in the DCC program during 2009-2010.
2008-2009: Civic Representation, Elections, and Public Opinion. Recent elections in the U.S. and many other constitutional democracies have shown how one of the most basic rights of full citizens, exercise of the franchise, can be frustrated, and how citizens can feel that their opinions do not count even when elections do occur. Issues of how to structure electoral systems and representative assemblies to do democratic justice to all pertinent social and economic groups and political perspectives and to achieve competent governance are answered very differently in different constitutional democracies. Mainstream and emerging media systems also play varying roles in informing, reflecting, or arguably manipulating public opinion and electoral behavior. The DCC Workshops and Spring Conference in 2008-2009 will explore the empirical, normative and policy challenges facing achievement of just, effective representation in modern electoral systems and representative bodies, with attention to the media and other sources of public opinion that shape electoral behavior.
2007-2008: Citizenship, Borders, and Human Needs. Both as sending and as receiving nations, many constitutional democracies today are experiencing serious, often polarizing controversies over heightened numbers of immigrants and emigrants as well as refugees and asylum seekers. There is intense debate over whether human economic, political, cultural and security needs are really best served by strictly enforcing civic borders, and over whose needs are served, whose are harmed. Some read history as indicating that constitutional democracies benefit from free movement of persons, some see very different lessons. Both empirically and normatively, some argue today that traditional nation-state boundaries for civic membership are becoming obsolete; some find these views utopian or unpatriotic. Scholars from many disciplines and countries will explore these issues in the DCC Workshops and Spring Conference for 2007-2008.
The volume for the 2007-2008 year is now available here.