The End of Democracy?
The fall of the Berlin Wall. The collapse of the Iron Curtain. The Orange Revolution. The Arab Spring.
The rush of events in recent decades seems to confirm that Alexis de Tocqueville was right: the future belongs to democracy. But take a closer look. The history of democracy since the 1830s, when Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, reveals a far more complicated picture. And the future, author Chilton Williamson Jr. demonstrates, appears rather unpromising for democratic institutions around the world.
The fall of communism sparked the popular notion that the spread of democracy was inevitable. After Tocqueville challenges this sunny notion. Various aspects of twenty-first-century life that Tocqueville could scarcely have imagined—political, economic, social, religious, intellectual, technological, environmental—militate against democracy, both in developing societies and in the supposedly democratic West.
This piercing, elegantly written book raises crucial questions about the future of democracy, including:
- Just what is democracy? As Williamson shows, definitions and concepts have become so varied that the term is effectively meaningless.
- How does a system whose institutions and habits arose in small-scale societies adapt to a postmodern, globalized world?
- After two centuries of democratization, are Western countries really more free?
- How can democracy endure when people care more about procuring what they want than about securing liberty?
- How does a political system survive when it is beset by problems that cannot be solved by political means?
Two decades ago, Francis Fukuyama famously pronounced the “end of history.” History, it turns out, is still very much with us. Democracy (whatever it is) may not be in the decades and centuries to come.
|What They're Saying...||
“With this book, Chilton Williamson advances to the top rank of American political and social thinkers. This is an extraordinary performance of a versatile novelist, political analyst, art critic, etc. His main thesis may be arguable, but only by people whose mental equipment and scholarship are at least close to the qualities Williamson demonstrates.”
“Chilton Williamson has written the best book on democracy in the past hundred years. Capturing Tocqueville has developed into an intellectual sport, sides taken less on the merits of the French aristo’s prophecy that equality and democracy were everywhere gaining ground in the nineteenth century than on when and in what form the process will be completed. Williamson, in this learned and elegantly written book, has changed the rules of the game.”
“Is democracy good for people? Or nations? Can it survive George W. Bush’s ‘global democratic revolution’ or the ‘Arab Spring’? What, in any case, does democracy mean in an age of mass politics, mass culture, mass communications, not to say mass hysteria? Chilton Williamson tackles the horrors, contradictions, and absurdities of life after Tocqueville (and Fukuyama) in a book that is both immensely civilized and a cracking good read.”
“At last a book that actually thinks about democracy—i.e., courageously dares address the Deity of our times. While referring to just about everything that has been written about democracy in modern times—his culture seems as limitless as his modesty—Williamson adroitly nudges the democratic reader to wonder whether he has ever been taught the right things about democracy. This book is a thought-provoking meditation one feels urged to take an active part in.”
“A comprehensive and continually stimulating study of how we have entered a postdemocratic age which has subverted nearly everything that was valuable in American democracy as understood by Tocqueville.”
|Eligible for Readers Club Discount||Yes|