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How democracies die : what history tells us…

How democracies die : what history tells us about our future (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt (Author.)

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2221375,854 (4.43)21
Title:How democracies die : what history tells us about our future
Authors:Steven Levitsky
Other authors:Daniel Ziblatt (Author.)
Info:London : Viking, 2018.
Collections:Your library

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How democracies die by Steven Levitsky (2018)



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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Political Science wags a finger.
Levitsky and Ziblatt believe that democracy is a matter of elite competition managed through political parties and informal norms of mutual tolerance and forbearance, and that Trump is breaking American democracy by flouting convention. They spend many pages making preposterous comparisons between the U.S. and places like Venezuela, Peru, Turkey and Russia, when the only valid comparisons are with the polities of western Europe, Canada, et. al.—countries with similar levels of economic development, robust civil societies and experience with stable, constitutional government. Of course, none of those countries elected as their leader a narcissistic buffoon with no political experience.

Wicked Weed Lunatic Blonde
Singlecut Heavy Boots of Lead Imperial Stout
  MusicalGlass | Nov 17, 2018 |
The authors really jump head first into their subject, causing a splash so big, the reader may immediately think the actual title is "Trumpism 101". They promptly lay out four key signs of an authoritarian government, and, without any help from the authors, it is easy to think of statements or actions America's current president has done that meet those criteria. Has the legitimacy of the most recent presidential election ever been questioned? Ever heard the phrase "Lock her up!" at one of his rallies? How about his encouragement of his supporters to physically assault his non-supporters? Is the phrase "Fake news" familiar to you? What's your best guess on what he thinks of Putin? However, the book quickly gets away from Trump and cites many examples of well known authoritarian governments in recent decades in other parts of the world, to give perspective to what may or may not be happening in America. The book then points to two essential "guardrails" to democracy, those dimensions of government beyond representative government, balance of power, and other well known foundations of America's republic. It is this discussion that is often overlooked and is much more of a factor in making or breaking the better known pillars. Eventually, the authors narrate the "unraveling" of America to where it is in 2019. Many readers may be surprised the authors lay significant initial blame on a former key government official, rather than the current President, for why we are where we are. Finally, the book tries to guide the analysis to what, if anything could and should be done about the current state of affairs. I'll let other readers come to their own conclusions on how successful the authors are in doing that. Personally, I think it lacks a recognition of some essential dynamics at play, which surprises me somewhat, given how much depth they give to the subject up to that point. All in all, this is a concise review of democracy for not only the Bernie Sanders or even Jeff Flakes of the world, and you don't even have to read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to appreciate what the book has to say. It is about what every American should know before giving a political candidate their support, regardless of the details of their lives. ( )
  larryerick | Oct 18, 2018 |
An important book about democracies and how they manage to fail. A book everyone should read in today's divisive climate. ( )
  DanDiercks | Jun 21, 2018 |
A somber, realistic, but hopeful look at the dangers to American democracy by the loss of mutual tolerance and forbearance and some strategies for preserving it. ( )
  dasam | Jun 21, 2018 |
This is an incredible book and I plan to use it throughout this summer when campaigning and talking to people who want to "vote their conscience" no matter how extreme or politically suicidal. Unlike most reviewers, I'm most attracted to the prescriptions at the end of the book for avoiding the death of American democracy. Before getting to these recommendations however, the authors, two Harvard political scientists, lay out the signs of democracies that are sliding into authoritarianism. They have been studying these patterns for 20 years in European and Latin American countries, and yes, the US. In Venezuela, Argentina, Turkey, Poland and, under Trump (not to mention Mao and Stalin), the signs are familiar. They are: 1. Attacking the "referees, the legal and court systems; 2. Attacking the press 3. Rewriting the rules, to solidify their power.

In threatened democracies, including ours, there is a dearth of "mutual tolerance," where the parties and their leaders respect each other's viewpoints, opposing or not, and there is the abandonment of "institutional forbearance," which is restraint from using "nuclear options" no matter how tempting. You see, while the US has a great constitution and fine laws, most of what really protects our democracy is unwritten traditions. Starting with Newt Gingrich and his "contract on America," and continuing to Mitch McConnell's statement that the GOP was going to prevent President Obama from accomplishing anything during his presidency, we have been slowly abandoning the mores that keep our democracy healthy. According to the authors, the most egregious example of busting through the "soft guardrails" of a functional democracy was Mitch McConnell's refusal to consider President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Merit Garland. This is unprecedented in US history. In healthy democracies, opposing parties work together to move forward with policies that improve the lives of everyone. Mitch McConnell is one of the most pernicious influences on the strength of our democratic system.

The greatest threat to our democracy is partisan extremism, first fueled by outside money that poured into GOP coffers from the likes of the Koch Brothers, Scaife and the Mercer family, and the shrill, bitter invective of right-wing media. Eventually the leadership of the GOP, consisting of reasonable people who were once able to collaborate with Democrats, was hollowed out, and what was left was pure bile. We know the rest of the story.

What is the solution? It's tough and we'll all have to make personal compromises. The authors argue that the established political parties, which have come in for so much criticism lately, are actually the gatekeepers against extremism. With so much money swamping politics, the parties alone can vet candidates and determine who has a legitimate track record, who's lying, and who can deliver on their promises. Americans are ignorant voters. The unaffiliated voter who watches a few TV commercials, or votes based on a few Facebook posts, is easily swayed by a demagogue, as we now know. Secondly, according to the lessons of history, where democracy survived attacks by authoritarians and their parties, we ALL need to move towards the center. We need to compromise, talk to the opposition, give up on some of our pet policy positions, and work together to defend what's really important, which is the integrity of our political system overall. To be a "true progressive" and "vote my conscience" might feel good temporarily, but any policy that's too far from the center just gets reversed in a future election, and paves the way for even more extremism. The best way forward is gradual, through consensus-building and broad coalitions. ( )
  westernwoman | Apr 14, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Is there any democracy that you would have ranked as highly as you ranked the United States as a democracy in 2016, whatever ranking that is, that’s fallen victim to authoritarianism in your case studies?

Levitsky: No, there are actually very, very few established democracies, democracies that have been fully democratic and that have been around for, say, 20 or more years, very few of them in the history of the world have collapsed. Uruguay is one, Chile is another, Venezuela is a third, maybe Hungary depending on how you interpret it these days. But none have been as stable or as democratic as the United States.
added by elenchus | editslate.com, Isaac Chotiner (Jan 16, 2018)

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steven Levitskyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ziblatt, Danielmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Brand, ChristopherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanders, FredNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To our families:

Liz Mineo and Alejandra Mineo Levitsky

& Soriya, Lilah, and Talia Ziblatt
First words
Is our democracy in danger? (Introduction)
On October 30, 1922, Benito Mussolini arrived in Rome at at 10:55 am in an overnight sleeping car from Milan.
But two norms stand out as fundamental to a functioning democracy: mutual toleration and institutional forbearance. (Chapter 5)
Mutual toleration refers to the idea that as long as our rivals play by constitutional rules, we accept that they have an equal right to exist, compete for power and govern. We may disagree with, and even strongly dislike, our rivals, but we nevertheless accept them as legitimate. [...] Put another way, mutual toleration is politicians' collective willingness to agree to disagree. (Chapter 5, elisions added)
A second norm critical to democracy's survival is what we call institutional forbearance. Forbearance means "patient self-control; restraint and tolerance," or "the action of restraining from exercising a legal right." For our purposes, institutional forbearance can be thought of as refraining from actions that, while respecting the letter of the law, violate its spirit. Where norms of forbearance are strong, politicians do not use their institutional prerogatives to the hilt, for such action could imperil the existing system. (Chapter 5)
Public protest is a basic right and an important activity in any democracy, but its aims should be the defense of rights and institutions, rather than their disruption. In an important study of the effects of black protest in the 1960s, political scientist Omar Wasow found that black-led nonviolent protest fortified the national civil rights agenda in Washington and broadened public support for that agenda. By contrast, violent protest led to a decline in white support and may have tipped the 1968 election from Humphrey to Nixon. (Chapter 9)
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Book description

Fateful alliances -- Gatekeeping in America -- The great Republican abdication -- Subverting democracy -- The guardrails of democracy -- The unwritten rules of American politics -- The unraveling -- Trump against the guardrails -- Saving democracy.
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"Donald Trump's presidency has raised a question that many of us never thought we'd be asking: Is our democracy in danger? Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang--in a revolution or military coup--but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms. The good news is that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism. The bad news is that, by electing Trump, we have already passed the first one. Drawing on decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, to the American South during Jim Crow, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies die--and how ours can be saved."--Dust jacket.… (more)

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