The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas

CTI Related Events

"Sustaining Democracy" Reading Group

The current political and cultural climate in the U.S. has made it clear that the foundational principles of our system of government — democratic norms, rule of law, and civil freedoms, among others — are both insufficiently understood and insufficiently valued by great swaths of the public.  The same can be said of the opposite: The threats posed by authoritarianism, extreme partisanship, and political corruption to civic life and a humane society are also poorly understood and under-appreciated.  The Jefferson Center has a critical role to play in helping UT students understand and navigate this dangerous and illiberal moment, in which the center seems no longer to be holding.
“Sustaining Democracy” is a new book club that provides UT students a space in which to read and discuss key thinkers and texts, both canonical and contemporary, that lay the foundations for democratic and ethical governance. Readings will highlight the specific ways that ethical and democratic governance is undermined by authoritarianism, tribalism, and corruption.  Fall 2020 meetings will be held biweekly via Zoom, usually on Thursdays at 5 pm (alternating with The Jefferson Book Club). Readings will average 1-2 chapters per meeting.
During the Fall 2020 semester, we will be reading and discussing How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.  Participants are responsible for acquiring their own copies of the book. 
Meeting Schedule
Thu 10/8, 5 pm:  Welcome/Kick-off discussion (no readings required)
Thu 10/22, 5 pm: Introduction and Ch.1 (Fateful Alliances)
Thu 11/5, 5 pm : Ch.4 (Subverting Democracy) and Ch.5 (The Guardrails of Democracy)
Tue 11/17, 5 pm: Ch.6 (The Unwritten Rules of American Politics)
Thu 12/3, 5 pm: Ch.7 (The Unraveling)
The “Sustaining Democracy” book club is open to all UT students.  To join, register at:
For questions, please email Dr. Hina Azam at