Yascha Mounk has been sounding the alarm for some time: Democracy is in crisis, and it's our responsibility to save it.
"One of the great threats to our democratic system," he says, "is that many don't recognize what it looks like when it's under attack."
The German-American political scientist predicted this turn well before the polarizing 2016 U.S. election. Since then, he's been using a variety of public platforms—his writings, social media, and speeches—to analyze how we got here, and how we can fix it.
As interest in these topics has grown, so has Mounk's audience. He has a Twitter following of more than 42,500. On Slate, he pens a weekly column and hosts a popular podcast, both titled "The Good Fight." His name pops up frequently in articles on our fraught political climate, and dozens of his essays and op-eds have appeared in publications including The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times.
Mounk's new home for discourse is the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins, where he has been appointed a senior fellow. He embraced this role, he says, after finding resonance in SNF Agora's ambition to serve as a public forum promoting civic engagement and democracy.
"I hope to contribute to the intellectual life of the institute, and host gatherings of top academics and policymakers who are interested in SNF Agora's themes," he says. At the same time, he says the new platform, "allows me to continue to have a big public voice in what I think are the very most important questions of our time."
Mounk is the first scholar to be formally affiliated with the Agora Institute, which launched in 2017 with a $150 million gift from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. His appointment at Johns Hopkins also includes an associate professorship at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., where he'll teach classes in international relations.
Mounk joins the university after several recent high-profile posts. In addition to teaching at Harvard University—where he earlier earned his PhD in government—he was executive director of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and a senior fellow in the political reform program at the New America think tank.
His latest book, The People Versus Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It, explores how far-right populism has gained strength within established democracies of North America and Europe. Mounk devotes much of the text to proposing concrete solutions, including political activism and policy changes. His popular TED talk and Atlantic article in 2017 explored the same topics.
Mounk was born in 1982 in Munich to a family that had fled Poland decades earlier. He attended Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history.
His first book, Stranger In My Own Country, is a memoir reflecting on the Jewish experience in modern-day Germany. His next, The Age of Responsibility—based on his Harvard dissertation—examines how the concept of individual responsibility has transformed political thought and public policy in America and Europe.
Mounk says he's currently working on his fourth book, on the topic of "how to make multiethnic democracies work," and hopes to engage Johns Hopkins students in the process.
This spring, he'll teach a course for undergraduates, titled Populism and Politics, at the university's Homewood campus. The course, which meets on Mondays, will explore the nature of populism, investigating the ways in which it is a response to demographic change and whether it poses an existential threat to liberal democracy.
"Yascha Mounk is widely recognized for his thought leadership and writing illuminating the challenges facing democracies around the world," Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said. "These are the same issues that our SNF Agora Institute aspires to address, offering fresh insights and workable solutions that will sustain and strengthen democratic societies around the world."