How Democracy Ends

Author: David Runciman

Summary:

How will democracy end? And what will replace it? A preeminent political scientist examines the past, present, and future of an endangered political philosophy

Since the end of World War II, democracy’s sweep across the globe seemed inexorable. Yet today, it seems radically imperiled, even in some of the world’s most stable democracies. How bad could things get?

In How Democracy Ends, David Runciman argues that we are trapped in outdated twentieth-century ideas of democratic failure. By fixating on coups and violence, we are focusing on the wrong threats. Our societies are too affluent, too elderly, and too networked to fall apart as they did in the past. We need new ways of thinking the unthinkable–a twenty-first-century vision of the end of democracy, and whether its collapse might allow us to move forward to something better.

A provocative book by a major political philosopher, How Democracy Ends asks the most trenchant questions that underlie the disturbing patterns of our contemporary political life.


“Weak democracies are vulnerable to coup d’états because their institutions cannot absorb a frontal assault. Strong democracies are relatively immune to a frontal assault because their institutions are resilient. As a result, the assault on stable democracies comes from the sides. Some of it gets deflected into idle chatter – the constant talk of betrayal, failure and crisis that is the background noise of partisan politics. Some of it gets pushed under the surface and behind the scenes, where only the adults in the room can be sure what really took place, and even they don’t agree. These phenomena feed off each other. Idle talk about the end of democracy is excellent cover for incremental assaults on democracy to hide behind. Meanwhile, the incremental assaults help to feed the talk of failure, without anyone being sure.”
― David Runciman, How Democracy Ends

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