on 30 January 2014
The democratic process is messy and deeply conflicted. While on the surface it appears restless, short sighted,fickle and complacent in the long run it shows remarkable stability and resourcefulness. Democracies can muddle through serious crises because in contra distinction to dictatorships they have an immense capacity of experimenting and adapting until they stumble across the appropriate solutions whenever facing major conflicts or financial disasters.Western democracy has survived major challenges for over a century because ironically the system although chaotic is resilient enough not to get bogged down by its own failings.This is the crux of the author's thesis.It is inspired by Tocqueville, the 19th C French political philosopher who is said to have written the canonical book on Democracy observing it in action while visiting America.
The present author has the ability to make you stop and ponder every few pages with his sharp analysis and pithy conclusions.Whether you agree or not with his main thesis you cannot dismiss some of his trenchant insights.He describes the paradoxical nature of democratic life, its constant squabbling and lack of decisiveness,its difficult predicament steering a course between unwarranted complacency and unhelpful impatience,its propensity to drift into impending disaster and somehow getting unstuck, the simultaneous impatient rage and shoulder shrugging fatalism democratic politicians display with their partisan politicking.Nevertheless when it comes to the crunch ,as he demonstrates through his analysis of the various crises, Democracies always come on top prevailing against autocracies.One is tempted to see parallels between the survival of the free market economies with their chaotic cycles of success and failure and the democracies as they lurch from one crisis to another.
This is an original and well informed work which clearly describes the contradictions inherent in democracies and their remarkable capacity to survive crises despite their inability to anticipate them until too late. A minor criticism is that the main focus is on the American case with a relatively limited look at European and Asian examples.Understandably as the US is the wealthiest, most powerful democracy of the 20th and so far the 21st C.I look forward to a future work that analyses how autocracies survive crises as in Modern China and whether failed autocracies automatically morph into democracies or create hybrid systems retaining a mixture of both as in Putin's Russia or the present chaotic Irak and Ukraine.
on 27 December 2013
This is a marvellous book. It is a historical record of Democracy since the American
Revolution up to the present time. It draws on the writings of de Tocqueville, Kennard, Fukuyama
and other eminent writers/philosophers/economists and is eminently readable.
I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in where democracy finds itself
now and its future.