In Mistrust We Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don't Trust Our Leaders by Ivan Krastev
"In Mistrust We Trust" is a provocative book about the nature of our present disappointment with democracy. According to intellectual Ivan Krastev this disappointment comes from the voters' sense of lost power. The book is more about the questions it asks than the answers it provides. This stimulating 71-page book is broken out in three parts.
1. Interesting and provocative topic. Worthy of a TED Talk.
2. Global politics.
3. Book is infused with some great quotes. "And it was none other than Winston Churchill who dryly observed that `the best argument against democracy is a five-minute talk with the average.'"
4. A very interesting look at democracy. "What we are witnessing in all this is not the end of democracy but, rather, its radical transformation."
5. The changing role of politics. "Politics has been reduced to the art of adjusting to the imperatives of the market."
6. A lot of focus on the diminishing power of the voter. "In short, the voter has lost the capacity to counterbalance the power of the market in the name of a shared public interest."
7. One quote that captures our current American political system. "Democracy has been turned into a game of chicken, in which preventing the other side from governing is more important than governing yourself."
8. Defining what a democracy in crisis is. "A democracy that constantly changes its governments but fails to correct its dysfunctional policies is a democracy in crisis. A democracy in which public conversation has lost its capacity to change opinion and in which debate is reduced to a confirmation of existing ideological biases is a democracy in crisis."
9. The five revolutions that have shattered our world in the last half-century.
10. So what makes democracy so attractive? Find out.
11. Trends of inequality of disposable income. "For instance, by 2011, 20 percent of the U.S. population owned 84 percent of the total wealth of the country. And this disparity exists not only in the U.S. All over the world, globalization has led to the decline of inequality between states but the increase of inequality within nations."
12. An interesting look at the elites. "The new elites are self-confident because they are not only mobile but often refuse to see themselves as a part of a wider society. In times of crisis, they do not lead the community but leave it."
13. This book in a nutshell. "Citizens are losing trust in democratic institutions not because these institutions are less efficient or more corrupt, but because we have lost our power to influence them."
14. The power of smartphones. Probably the best part of this brief book. Many great examples. "In Russia, the legitimacy of the Russian Orthodox Church was undermined when a blogger posted a photo on Facebook showing the patriarch donning an expensive watch, and it declined further when Russians learned that the patriarch's public relations team doctored videos to conceal this fact from the public."
15. An interesting discussion on transparency. "The transparency movement embodies the hope that a combination of new technologies, publicly accessible data, and fresh civic activism can more effectively assist people to control their representatives." "Inundating people with information is a time-tested way to keep people uninformed."
16. So what brings change? Find out.
17. The importance of trust. "It is this basic trust that allows society to advance. This is why democracy cannot exist without trust and why politics as the management of mistrust will stand as the bitter end of democratic reform."
1. The writing style is uneven and some thoughts lack lucidity. A lot of interesting thoughts and observations but the overall book lacked a smooth flow.
2. The parts are greater than the whole.
3. Krastev has some great quotes and provides provocative ideas but missed opportunities to build on them.
4. A section on the science of trust would have added value.
5. No formal bibliography.
In summary, a very provocative topic and some keen observations. A lot of substance in a small book but it's communicated in an uneven manner. Some missed opportunities aside; there is also a lot to like in this book. The book is full of great quotes and the section on the power of smartphones is worthy of a book on its own. The book provides a great topic for a TED Talk and it's worthy of your time. I recommend it.
Further recommendations: "Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It (TED Books)" by Lawrence Lessig, "The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems" by William D. Eggers & Paul MacMillan, "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future" by Joseph Stiglitz, "Winner Take All: China's Race for Resources and What It Means for the World" by Dambisa Moyo, "The Post-American World: Release 2.0 2nd (second) Edition by Zakaria, Fareed published by W. W. Norton & Company (2011)" by Fareed Zakaria, "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back" by Thomas L. Friedman, "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback))" by Lou Dobbs, "Screwed" by Thom Hartmann, "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming" by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway, and "The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World" by Larry Diamond.