Professor, Director of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights
The University of Sydney, Australia
Born in southern Australia and educated at the Universities of Adelaide, Toronto and Cambridge, John Keane is Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB). In 1989 he founded the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in London. He is the Director of the recently founded the Institute or Human Rights and Democracy at the University of Sydney.
Among his many books are The Media and Democracy (1991), which has been translated into more than twenty-five languages; Democracy and Civil Society (1988; 1998); Reflections on Violence (1996); Civil Society: Old Images, New Visions (1998); the prize-winning biography Tom Paine: A Political Life (1995); and a study of power in twentieth century Europe, Václav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts (1999).
Among his most recent works are Global Civil Society? (2003), Violence and Democracy (2004), and (with Wolfgang Merkel and others) The Future of Representative Democracy (2010).
In recent years, he has held the Karl Deutsch Professorship in Berlin, co-directed a large-scale European Commission-funded project on the future of civil society and citizenship, and served as a Fellow of the London-based think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). He recently held a Major Research Fellowship awarded by the Leverhulme Trust and is a Fellow of the Fudan Institute for Advanced Study in Social Sciences in Shanghai.
During his many years of residence in Britain, The Times of London ranked him as one of the country’s leading political thinkers and writers whose work has “world-wide importance”. The Australian Broadcasting Commission recently described him as “one of the great intellectual exports from Australia”.
His current research interests include China and the future of global institutions; the twenty-first century enemies of democracy; fear and violence; public life, power and freedom of communication in the digital age; religion and the history of secularism; philosophies of language and history; the origins and future of representative government; and the history and politics of Islam.
He wrote the timeline for the new Museum of Australian Democracy. A consultant to the United Nations and the Evolution of Global Values project at the University of Leiden and a recent member of the American-based Institutions of Democracy Commission, he has just published The Life and Death of Democracy (2009) – the first full-scale history of democracy for over a century and the subject of considerable media and scholarly attention around the world. In an interview with CSD Bulletin, John Keane has recently discussed the reception of The Life and Death of Democracy.