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How Democracies Die Reviews

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt

How Democracies Die

What History Reveals About Our Future

Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt

3.43 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Viking
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 25 Jan 2018
ISBN: 9780241317983

Two Harvard professors explain the dangerous world we face today Democracies can die with a coup d'etat - or they can die slowly. This happens most deceptively when in piecemeal fashion, with the election of an authoritarian leader, the abuse of governmental power and the complete repression of opposition.

3 stars out of 5
David Runciman
24 Jan 2018

"This is a provocative and readable book, but in the end it is also an unsatisfying one."

This is a provocative and readable book, but in the end it is also an unsatisfying one. It shares the weakness of too much contemporary political science, by treating history as a useful guide to the future, despite the paucity of the dataset, the superficiality of much of the evidence, and the long track record we have of being surprised by what comes next. I say this as a historian: if we want to know how our democracies might die, we have to stop looking to our yesterdays.

Reviews

3 stars out of 5
Roger Boyes
20 Jan 2018

"The sobriety is welcome and it adds a quiet, understated chill to the text."

How Democracies Die, takes apart the idea of American exceptionalism, suggests ways in which other democracies have gone astray and examines how it could run aground in the US. They are political scientists — Ziblatt is the author of a good book, Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy — and use dry, orderly prose. Their most emotional outburst is to describe Trump as a “serial norm breaker”.

The sobriety is welcome and it adds a quiet, understated chill to the text. Yet beneath the scholarship there is a dull throb of anxiety. Chapters such as Trump’s First Year: an Authoritarian Report Cardend up in the same place as the pamphleteering chest-bangers — full of dread.

4 stars out of 5
Jennifer Szalai
10 Jan 2018

"...a lucid and essential guide to what can happen here"

“How Democracies Die” is a lucid and essential guide to what can happen here. Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies have collapsed elsewhere — not just through violent coups, but more commonly (and insidiously) through a gradual slide into authoritarianism.... But our current moment is so fraught that “How Democracies Die” is never dull, even if the writing can be. “If partisan animosity prevails over mutual toleration, those in control of congress may prioritize defense of the president over the performance of their constitutional duties.” This might be blanched prose, but it also sounds like a sly subtweet of the Republican Party.