Strengths and Fragilities of the Democratic Experiment

Pre-registration: Use the Google form below to let us know which Toronto Pursuits seminar you would like to pre-register for. Please choose only one seminar.

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Toronto Pursuits and COVID-19: We expect to formally open registration and collect deposits early in 2022, once we get more information from the University of Toronto. See the main Toronto Pursuits page for more details.

We do have a variety of online seminars running now, with new groups starting regularly. Thank you for your patience!




Joyce Wayne is the author of two novels, Last Night of the World (2018), about the actual characters who started the Cold War, and The Cook’s Temptation (2013), about a Victorian cook who happens to spread typhoid. Her most recent essay, “All the Kremlin’s Men” appears in Best Canadian Essays 2021. She was the editor at Quill & Quire, chaired the journalism program and launched the Centre for Internationally Trained Individuals at Sheridan College where she taught for 25 years. Joyce is also an editor-at-large at This.

Susan Crean is a freelance journalist and the author of five books including Finding Mr. Wong (2018); The Laughing One – A Journey to Emily Carr (2001), which won the Hubert Evans Prize for Non-Fiction in 2002; and co-author (with Marcel Rioux) of Two Nations – Canada and Quebec in a World of American Pre-Eminence (1983). She was the inaugural Maclean-Hunter chair in Creative Non-fiction at the University of British Columbia in 1990 and is an editor-at-large of This. She taught at Ryerson’s School of Journalism from 2000-2007.


The Narrow Corridor – States, Societies and the Fate of Liberty, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
(Penguin, 2020)
ISBN-13: 978-0735224407

Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, by Margaret Atwood
(House of Anansi; Updated edition, 2019)
ISBN-13: 978-1487006976

Begin Again – James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own Time, by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
(Crown, 2020)
ISBN-13: 978-0525575320

Joyce and Susan will also provide links to essays by Anne Applebaum, Hilton Als, Reginald Whitaker, George Packer, Louis Menard, and Robin Wright.

Participants are required to obtain the specified edition to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion.

Together we’ll explore how the contemporary essay lends itself to profound investigations of the democratic experiment. After a brief overview of the political and literary traditions of the essay form, we’ll investigate the essay’s striking new signs of life and relevance to current geo- and sociopolitical questions.

What are the basic tenets of contemporary democracy? What are its primary requirements and benefits? Why does democracy flourish in some societies but fall to authoritarianism or anarchy in others? We’ll also look at persistent challenges to democracy, including the one-party state, rigged elections, censorship of the press, and racial, gender, or religious segregation and discrimination. What happens when citizens no longer consider open elections,  an impartial judiciary and a free-functioning press necessary components of a democracy? What is the role of social equity in modern democracy?

Our discussions will bring us into the company of a wide variety of writers who take on these difficult questions. In The Narrow Corridor, economists Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson argue that democracy and political liberty exist only when a very delicate balance between states and societies is maintained. Novelist Margaret Atwood shines a light on the many facets of debt, monetary and otherwise. Scholar Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. analyzes systematic discrimination in the United States through his discussions of the works of James Baldwin. And much more — the range of inquiry offers us an opportunity to think hard and deep about how we understand democracy and how we want our societies to be in the 21st century.


The cost of Toronto Pursuits registration will be announced shortly. Registration includes one seminar Monday to Friday, morning coffee and newspapers, five buffet lunches, afternoon speakers, a five-day opera lecture series, film screenings, guided walks, two cocktail receptions, and a range of other cultural and social activities. All costs are subject to the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

See Registration and Cancellation Policy at


ONE per registrant

  • Participants who have attended Toronto Pursuits at least five times receive a C$215 discount.
  • Register with a friend, and if one or both are first-time participants, each receives a C$215 discount.


You are responsible for booking your own accommodation. Click here for more information.

Stratford Shakespeare Festival Weekend

We expect to have more information about the Stratford Festival Weekend in early 2022.


Additional information


Concert ticket, Not eligible for discount, Five times, With friend, Gift registration