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The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present Hardcover – 4 Oct 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (4 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691148686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691148687
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

One of "The Guardian"'s Readers' Books of the Year for 2014


One of "The Guardian"'s Readers' Books of the Year for 2014


"His rich and refreshing book will be of intense interest to anyone puzzled by the near paralysis that seems to afflict democratic government in a number of countries, not least the United States. Runciman's account of the workings of the confidence trap--the belief that democracy will always survive--will serve as an antidote to the moods of alarm and triumph by which writers on democracy are regularly seized."--John Gray, "New York Review of Books"

"Runciman's book abounds with fresh insights, arresting paradoxes, and new ways of posing old problems. It is part intellectual history, an absorbing study of the modern debate on democracy through the contrasting perspectives of key public intellectuals, such as Walter Lippmann, George F. Kennan, Francis Fukuyama and Friedrich Hayek, and part analysis of the problem of political leadership in democracies, explored through the decisions taken by leaders, particularly US presidents, and the constraints under which they operate."--Andrew Gamble, "Times Literary Supplement"

"[An] ingenious account of how free nations faced seven international crises from 1918 to 2008. . . . Runciman concludes that democracy will probably survive, having made a delightfully stimulating, if counterintuitive case, that the unnerving tendency of democracies to stumble into crises is matched by their knack for getting out of them."--"Publishers Weekly"

"[A] historically sensitive and subtle response to the democratic crisis."--Thomas Meaney and Yascha Mounk, "The Nation"

"[B]rilliantly and convincingly delivered. The big story of mature democracies in crisis is told with remarkable confidence and brio. Runciman writes lucidly and compellingly: this is a book that you cannot put down."--Georgios Varouxakis, "Standpoint"

"As a corrective to the doom-and-gloomsters, this book makes some telling points, and he is a clear and forceful writer. . . . What Runciman's focus on American democracy helps to do is to remind us that there is an international dimension to this subject that is closely connected to American self-perceptions."--Mark Mazower, "Financial Times"

"Runciman's writing, often brilliantly aphoristic, is full of insights, opinions, and phrasings that will challenge and delight scholars and general readers both."--Robert Nardini, "Library Journal" (Starred Review)

"Refreshingly free of received and rehearsed wisdoms, Runciman doesn't tiptoe around sacred cows and invites us to take part in that most adult way of thinking: to examine contradictory ideas in tandem and ponder what the dissonance amounts to. . . . [H]e argues lucidly, persuasively, even exhilaratingly at times. The nightly news will never appear exactly the same again."--Miriam Cosic, "Australian"

"[Runciman] is a trenchant commentator on current affairs and a historian of political thought who, in his books and his articles in the "London Review of Books," has revealed himself to be a gifted explainer. . . . [H]e has a canny sense of how political power operates at its highest levels and in his exposition of political theory he is unfailingly clear and direct. Runciman's prose is conversational, if elegantly so--it is no surprise that he is a fluent lecturer--and characterised by a wry restraint."--Daniel Cohen, "Los Angeles Review of Books"

"[E]xcellent and interesting. . . . [A]dmirable and very well written."--Chris Patten, "Tablet"

"Runciman is a good writer and brave pioneer. . . . The picture he sketches is agreeably bold."--John Keane, "Sydney Morning Herald"

"If you think American democracy doesn't work these days, you have to read this well-written book."--Fareed Zakaria

"What we get here is good history. The events at the seven junctures are presented in a way that is learned, concise and informative."--Stein Ringen, "International Affairs"

"Runciman is skilled at bringing important political questions 'out of the clouds' and presenting them in a manner that is clear, engaging, and approachable. . . . This is an extraordinarily well-written and engaging book that asks important questions about structural strengths and weaknesses of democratic governance."--"Choice"

One of "The Guardian" s Readers Books of the Year for 2014"

From the Back Cover

"In this book, David Runciman emerges as the most original guide we have to democracy's global prospects in the twenty-first century."--Melissa Lane, Princeton University

""The Confidence Trap's" engrossing analytical history illuminates democracy's deepening achievements and recurring crises during the charged past century. By incisively interpreting these moments of unsettled apprehension and by tracking patterns of coping and surviving, this rich, important book helps us understand, and perhaps even navigate, present anxieties about the capacity of democracies to grapple with the big issues of economics, geopolitics, and the environment."--Ira Katznelson, author of "Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time"

"Rivetingly written for a wide audience, this is David Runciman's best and most original book to date--bold, clear, astonishingly well informed, and consistently excellent. His ecumenical curiosity is as engaging as it is disarming, pulling you into a history that is effortless to read and leaves you thinking about its insights long after you put it down."--Ian Shapiro, author of "The Real World of Democratic Theory"

"Imaginative and entirely original. I've not read anything remotely like it."--Alan Ryan, author of "On Politics"

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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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.
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All good.
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Should be on every politicians bookshelf as a reference, and standard text for modern historians of all nationalities and religious persuasions.
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It is an OK book but not for me.
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