Most helpful positive review
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Little did he know when he wrote his review....
on January 8, 2013
The essence of this book is captured in one of its final sentences describing the problem with the contemporary citizen: "He tries to change society simply by monitoring and leaving." The author, Ivan Krastev, is trying to describe why so much of our political life is driven by the seemingly capricious behavior of people like the first reviewer of this book (Brent Ray). Mr. Ray chose to leave a 1 star non-review and a snarky comment about an awkward sentence in the Amazon written description of the book. But, he couldn't be bothered with actually reading the book itself.
Likewise, Krastev argues that politics throughout the world have been impacted by the substitution of market instead of civic behavior on the part of citizens and politicians. Put simply, civic behavior is characterized by "voice", the acts of complaining, petitioning or protesting intended to lead to improvements within a society. A prime characteristic of market behavior is "exit", the ability to find a different good or service because one is dissatisfied with the current provider. In civic life, the concept of "voice" has driven the development of democratic societies. However, because of the economic and social disruptions of recent times, it is often easier to "exit" or tune out than to follow through with helping to bring effective improvements in a society, abandoning civic engagement much like you would abandon a brand of soap because another one promises better cleaning.
Krastev argues that this state of affairs is one consequence of the incomplete "revolutions" of the past several decades which have extended democracy to such an extent that it is the default political system in the world today. Individuals in many parts of the world have never had more freedom,but this has been accompanied by less tolerance by individuals for interference with their perceived "freedom" to pursue more personal agendas. Compounding this has been the communications and digital revolutions, which have made it easier and quicker to observe events, but also easier to "exit" responsibility as a citizen because of the opportunities for infinite alternative distractions. The result is a willingness to protest, but not necessarily a patience to follow through with real solutions. Hence, in the US we have the Tea Party and Occupy movements in which large numbers of people easily protest the status quo, but have a less than clear idea of what real solutions to society's perceived deficiencies might be. Similarly, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe more than 20 years ago and, more recently, in the Middle East, but few have stayed engaged in the harder work of building an alternative political system.
Cynicism has become the dominant political ideology in both new and old democracies. Just as it is easier to carp about a copy writer's slip than to actually try to understand what the product is about.