The world’s ongoing slide into authoritarianism has generated a frantic effort among political scientists, historians, and national security experts to identify the causes and possible solutions. University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner (The Demagogue’s Playbook) and University of Sydney political scientist John Keane (The New Despotism) have unpacked how authoritarian demagogues take and maintain power. Historian Anne Applebaum (Twilight of Democracy) shared her front row seat as to how so many “normal” members of the European right of the 1990s migrated to the radical right in the 2010s. Timothy Snyder (The Road to Unfreedom) showed how Russian authoritarianism was restored and then exported near and far while Peter Pomerantsev pulled back the veil on how Russian disinformation works (in This is Not Propaganda.) Harvard political scientists Steven Litsky and Daniel Ziblatt (How Democracies Die) and Yascha Mounk (The People vs Democracy) have documented the conditions under which liberal democracies collapse from within. Together these books – all of them published in the past four years – diagnose a deadly disease but offer only the most rudimentary treatments.
Now Mounk, professor of government at Johns Hopkins University and a contributing writer at The Atlantic, has a new book that delves more deeply into solutions than the others: The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure. I reviewed it for the current issue of Washington Monthly, which you can read here.
My summary: “His ambitious effort will help jump-start serious conversations about how to rescue the long-standing democracies of ‘the West,’ even if some of its central arguments don’t quite hit the bull’s-eye, especially when the target is the U.S. itself.”
I hope you’ll read the full review of this revealing book.
My last book review for Washington Monthly was of Matthew Pearl’s The Taking of Jemima Boone.