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How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky

How Democracies Die (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Steven Levitsky (Author), Daniel Ziblatt (Author)

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3411849,060 (4.29)28
Title:How Democracies Die
Authors:Steven Levitsky (Author)
Other authors:Daniel Ziblatt (Author)
Info:Crown (2018), 299 pages
Collections:Your library, Books
Tags:Books, Sociology, Social Sciences, Politics, Political Sciences, American Writer, American Nonfiction, Nonfiction

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How democracies die by Steven Levitsky (2018)



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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
In light of Donald Trump's presidency, some of us wonder if our democracy is resilient enough to withstand an autocrat. This book delves into the various ways democracies have been challenged or have died around the world, both throughout history and in present day. I learned about key indicators of authoritarian behavior (rejection of democratic rules, denying legitimacy of opponents, toleration of violence, and curtailing of civil liberties). I learned also about gatekeepers who, throughout history, have kept morally or intellectually deficient people from the highest offices, and the current abdication of these responsibilities. Another new idea: the guardrails of democracy, such as mutual toleration (opponents have an equal right to exist) and institutional forbearance (avoiding actions that are legal but violate the spirit of the law), both of which have been eroding in present-day American politics. We are taken through discussions of this slow, steady weakening of democratic institutions and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms not only in our country, but also 1930's Europe, Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela, etc. The last chapter deals with ways we can save democracy. The authors contend that means testing (the usual way of providing for those with less means based on income) can be supplanted with more universalistic models such as those in northern Europe, which could have a moderating effect on our politics and reduce inequality. Some specifics include comprehensive health insurance, aggressive raising of minimum wage, generous family policies, and better labor market policies.

This book was not an easy read for me, but it's one I have thought about quite a bit since finishing it, and have discussed it's contents with many people. i have even gone back and highlighted areas I'd like to think more about. Great book. ( )
  peggybr | Jul 7, 2019 |
This was a well researched and thought provoking book. It's also a bit of a true to life horror story as the authors entertain the possibility that our democracy has died or will die. My own personal thought is that our democracy is on life support. This country is in a political coma. Both authors seem a bit pessimistic about our chances too.

The authors have pointed out that our country has experienced extreme demagogues like Huey Long, George Wallace, Joe McCarthy and Henry Ford. In the past, political parties served as effective "gatekeepers" who prevented extremists from running for or being elected to high office. They also cite examples from other countries where democracy was threatened. In some of the cases, like Germany in the 1930s and Italy in the 1920s, democracy lost.

The authors cite four key indicators of authoritarian behavior:
1. Rejection of or weak commitment to democratic rules of the game.
2. Denial of the legitimacy of political opponents.
3. Toleration or encouragement of violence.
4. Readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including media.

I'll leave the reader to decide if our current politics and governance shows a remarkable trend towards authoritarian behavior and a strong shift from democratic ideals.
( )
  writemoves | Jun 17, 2019 |
American American History American politics authoritarianism Contemporary History democracy ebook February 2018 government history kindle non-fiction political political culture political science political theory politics read in 2018 sm bedroom/library social science sociology to-read Trump unread US politics USA world history
  ASUOWC | Jun 12, 2019 |
"We have developed a set of four behavioral warnings that can help us know an authoritarian when we see one. We should worry when a politician 1) rejects, in words or action, the democratic rules of the game, 2) denies the legitimacy of opponents, 3) tolerates or encourages violence, or 4) indicates a willingness to curtail the civil liberties of opponents, including the media.... A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern.... Trump, even before his inauguration, tested positive on all four measures of our litmus test for autocrats."

Presented against the background of other emerging authoritarian heads of state, such as those of Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Hungary, and Poland, the authors review the case that Trump represents a dangerous step in a worldwide trend, one that threatens the liberal traditions upon which America was founded. Well written, persuasive, and almost certainly correct. ( )
1 vote dono421846 | Jun 2, 2019 |
I would have to agree with "Schatzi" here. Still, a very well-written and interesting book on a vital topic. ( )
  comsat38 | Mar 25, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (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
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?
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)
Αυτό το δυσοίωνο σενάριο είναι μια ακόμα -έμμεση, έστω- επιβεβαίωση της βασικής θέσης αυτού του βιβλίου, ότι η ομαλή λειτουργία της δημοκρατίας στη χώρα μας εξαρτάται από δυο προϋποθέσεις τις οποίες συχνά τείνουμε να θεωρούμε δεδομένες: την αμοιβαία ανοχή και τη θεσμική αυτοσυγκράτηση. Το αντιμετωπίζεις τους πολιτικούς αντιπάλους σου ως νόμιμους διεκδικητές της εξουσίας και όχι ως εχθρούς, όπως και να μην κάνεις κατάχρηση των θεσμικών προνομίων σου, δεν είναι γραμμένο στο σύνταγμα των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών. Ωστόσο, αν αυτές οι δυο αρχές δεν τηρούνται, τα θεσμικά αντίβαρα και οι ισορροπίες του πολιτικού μας συστήματος ανατρέπονται.
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)
Με λίγα λόγια, το συμπέρασμα είναι πως η αντιπολίτευση πρέπει πάντα να εξαντλεί τις δυνατότητες που υπάρχουν ώστε να ανακοπεί με θεσμικά μέσα η πορεία μιας χώρας προς τον αυταρχισμό.
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)
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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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