Mercatus Center Announces the Program on Pluralism and Civil Exchange

Arlington, VA—The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is pleased to announce a new initiative, the Program on Pluralism and Civil Exchange, focused on building pathways toward a free and peaceful society. Ben Klutsey, currently Director of Academic Outreach at Mercatus, will lead this new initiative.

"In recent years, illiberal ideologies such as authoritarianism, socialism, and nativism have gained traction around the world, while civic habits and practices such as open inquiry and civil debate have simultaneously diminished,” said Klutsey. “These trends make it difficult to maintain peaceful coexistence with others, particularly in the cases of deep ideological divides. Our goal with this program is to inspire a new generation of thinkers and doers who will make the building of a free, open, and pluralistic society a vision and adventure worth pursuing. We want to be the premier source for learning, demonstrating, and implementing ideas for an equal and diverse society."

Through the Program on Pluralism and Civil Exchange, Mercatus is seeking to build a robust and diverse community of thinkers, writers, scholars, and do-ers working in the broad liberal tradition. This program will include visiting fellows, a new Pluralist Lab to foster conversation and civil discourse, and partnerships with centers and universities across the country.

Visiting Fellows

The program’s first cohort of visiting fellows features four scholars, who will each be focusing on a specific aspect of encouraging a liberal society. The initial Pluralism Visiting Fellows are:

  • Shikha Dalmia, focusing on populist authoritarianism.
  • Tevi Troy, focusing on historical lessons from previous challenges to liberalism that are relevant for our time.
  • Henry Thomson, focusing on economic nationalism.
  • Kevin Augustyn, focusing on liberalism and pluralism in religious thought.

Additional visiting fellows will be announced in the coming months.

Pluralist Lab

The Pluralist Lab will develop a series of conversations with academic researchers and public intellectuals on the core values and current challenges to a free, open, and equal society, as well as the tools for rejuvenating them. In addition to podcast conversations hosted by Klutsey, the Pluralist Lab will host forums and encourage experimentation to create new tools for improving civil discourse in everyday life.


The program will partner with other organizations and projects to undertake joint work, symposia, conferences, and salons to learn different perspectives about the current wave of illiberalism and leverage cross-institutional capabilities to identify and attempt solutions. One of the program’s first partnerships is with The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College. This partnership will bring students and scholars from diverse perspectives together to discuss current topics and ideas in public discourse that are sometimes difficult to engage. The goal is to foster open mindedness, mutual forbearance, and demonstrate how we can exchange ideas and coexist with our fellow citizens across deep divides.

More information about the program will be available in the coming weeks; sign up below for program updates. For a preview of the conversations to come from the Pluralist Lab, transcripts from Klutsey’s recent series on liberalism are available at Discourse, the Mercatus Center’s online journal of politics, economics, and culture.

For media inquiries, please contact Matthew Boyer at 703-993-8094 or [email protected].