- Series: Council on Foreign Relations Books
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (March 25, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300205805
- ISBN-13: 978-0300205800
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline of Representative Government (Council on Foreign Relations Books) Paperback – March 25, 2014
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"This book offers a very well-informed and global exploration of political developments over the past decade, with a particular emphasis on the state of democracy. Kurlantzick brings it all together in a unique, original, and compelling manner."—Brian Joseph, Senior Director, Asia and Global Programs, National Endowment for Democracy
"Simply put, Kurlantzick raises the specter of a world where democracy is in full retreat. But this book accomplishes much more than a simple hand wringing over the problem. It conscientiously works through the major factors that are eating away at new and more established democracies and preventing the establishment of future ones. Kurlantzick shines in bringing to the fore something previously ignored. Few—if any—other books cover the topic so soundly and broadly, and for the future safety, security, and international position of the U.S., it is of vital importance."—Samantha F. Ravich, Ph.D., author of Marketization and Democracy: East Asian Experiences
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This is more of a treatise than a piece of literary nonfiction, and as with most such pieces of writing, the overlong title virtually tells the story. The author has done an admirable job of collecting data and anecdotes to support his thesis here, which is one of high hopes dashed.
The U.S., he writes, has been the primary nation actively trying to export democracy, and perhaps too over zealous in doing so. His concern isn’t our misadventures in Vietnam, South America and more recently, Iraq. Instead, it’s our more peaceful efforts to create democracies around the world. However, there has been all too much emphasis on the various electoral processes in doing so, and too little emphasis on policies, including the educational, to support permanent democratic reform. As a result, many democracies of the twentieth century have failed,returning to oligarchies, dictatorships, or other, more repressive forms of representative government.
The poor, of course, have borne the primary disappointments here, but in many countries, the middle classes have become disenchanted with the democratic process. In all too many cases, upsetting the status quo has shrunken and disturbed the middle classes, which were both part of the ladder of societal ascendance and a buffer between poor and risk, disenfranchised and powerful. Much of the frustration here has been that more repressive societies, such as China, seem to achieve economic success while many democratic countries founder economically due to the decision-making inefficiencies of most democratic states.
To this reader, the author spends too much time citing one case history after another and too little trying to map our way of his quagmire. Still he does a service in tacitly insisting that perhaps democracy is a product of social evolution - little more than a mere accident in the establishment of the U.S.
My rating: 15 of 20 stars
Kurlantzick's report of democratic failings had been anticipated by Samuel Huntington. Democratic consolidation was by no means simple and easy. According to him, 'Disillusionment and the lowered expectations it produces are the foundation of democratic stability. Democracies become consolidated when people learn that democracy is a solution to the problem of tyranny, but not necessarily to anything else.'