About Us

John Keane

John Keane was born in southern Australia. He is a Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB). He is the co-founder and director of the Sydney Democracy Network (SDN).  Renowned globally for his creative thinking about democracy, John Keane was educated at the Universities of Adelaide and Toronto (where he was mentored by C. B. Macpherson) and King’s College, University of Cambridge.

Well before the European revolutions of 1989, he first came to public prominence as a defender of ‘civil society’ and the democratic opposition in central and eastern Europe. His political and scholarly writing during that period was often published under the pen name Erica Blair. In 1989 he founded the world’s first Centre for the Study of Democracy in London. During his many years living in Europe, The Times ranked him one of Britain’s leading political thinkers and writers whose work has ‘world-wide importance’. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has described him as “one of Australia’s great intellectual exports”.

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). His more recent works include Democracy and Media Decadence (2013), (with Wolfgang Merkel and others) The Future of Representative Democracy (2010), Violence and Democracy (2004) and Global Civil Society? (2003).

He is completing book-length projects on the future of democracy in China, the rise of despotism in the Eurasian region and the politics and government of Antarctica. His other research interests include the growth of global institutions; the twenty-first-century enemies of democracy; power, public life 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 writes a ‘Democracy Field Notes’ column for the London/Melbourne/New York-based web platform The Conversation. He wrote the timeline for the new Museum of Australian Democracy and served as a member of the American-based Institutions of Democracy Commission. His Life and Death of Democracy was short-listed for the 2010 Non-Fiction Prime Minister’s Literary Award. It is the first full-scale history of democracy for over a century. PortugueseGreek, Brazilian, Chinese and Japanese translations have appeared and Korean, Spanish and Arabic editions are on their way.