How Democracies Die
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How Democracies Die : What History Reveals About Our Future

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Two Harvard professors explain the dangerous world we face todayDemocracies can die with a coup d'etat - or they can die slowly. This happens most deceptively when in piecemeal fashion, with the election of an authoritarian leader, the abuse of governmental power and the complete repression of opposition. All three steps are being taken around the world - not least with the election of Donald Trump - and we must all understand how we can stop them.In How Democracies Die, Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt draw insightful lessons from across history - from the rule of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile to the quiet undermining of Turkey's constitutional system by President Recip Erdogan - to shine a light on regime breakdown across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Notably they point to the dangers of an authoritarian leader faced with a major crisis. Based on years of research, they present a deep understanding of how and why democracies die; an alarming analysis of how democracy is being subverted today in the US and beyond; and a guide for maintaining and repairing a threatened democracy, for governments, political parties and individuals. History doesn't repeat itself. But we can protect our democracy by learning its lessons, before it's too late.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 144 x 222 x 30mm | 461g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • VIKING
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0241317983
  • 9780241317983
  • 1,115

Review quote

With great energy and integrity [Levitsky and Ziblatt] apply their expertise to the current problems of the United States. -- Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny We owe the authors a debt of thanks for bringing their deep understanding to bear on the central political issue of the day. -- Francis Fukuyama, author of Political Order and Political Decay Anyone who is concerned about the future of democracy should read this brisk, accessible book. Anyone who is not concerned should definitely read it. -- Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail What's the worst thing to happen to US democracy recently? Most answers to that question start and end with Donald Trump. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, though as horrified by Trump as anyone, try to take a wider view. This book looks to history to provide a guide for defending democratic norms when they are under threat, and finds that it is possible to fight back. Provocative and readable. -- David Runciman * The Guardian * The greatest of the many merits of Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's contribution to what will doubtless be the ballooning discipline of democracy death studies is their rejection of western exceptionalism. They tell inspiring stories I had not heard before...excellent, scholarly and readable, alarming and level-headed. -- Nick Cohen * The Guardian * In this brilliant historical synthesis, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how the actions of elected leaders around the world have paved the road to democratic failure, and why the United States is now vulnerable to this same downward spiral. This book should be widely and urgently read as a clarion call to restore the shared beliefs and practices-beyond our formal constitution-that constitute the essential 'guardrails' for preserving democracy. -- Larry Diamond, author of The Spirit of Democracy In a new book about Trump's America, two political scientists from Harvard, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, discuss "How Democracies Die". In it they emphasise the importance of not just political rules but how we behave ... Got that, Donald? -- Andrew Marr * Evening Standard * 'How Democracies Die' is a lucid and essential guide . . . Levitsky and Ziblatt assiduously dismantle the myth of American exceptionalism -- Jennifer Szalai * New York Times * Magisterial, compelling... sweeps across the globe and through history to analyze how democracies die. The result is an unforgettable framework for diagnosing the state of affairs here and our prospects for recovery. -- Danielle Allen, author of Our Declaration and Cuz Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have offered a brilliant diagnosis of the most important issue facing our world: Can democracy survive? With clinical precision and an extraordinary grasp of history, they point to the warning signs of decay and define the obligations of those who would preserve free government. If there is an urgent book for you to read at this moment, it is How Democracies Die. -- E.J. Dionne Jr., co-author of One Nation After Trump The political-science text in vogue this winter is How Democracies Die. * The New Yorker * [An] important new book. -- Nicholas Kristof * New York Times * After the populist revolts of 2016, the big question on everybody's lips is will democracy be up to the challenge? In this incredibly timely and informative book, Levitsky and Ziblatt take you on a global tour of the big challenges to democracy and along the way equip readers with a far stronger understanding of what is happening and what could happen next. I don't say "must read" often but this is book sits firmly within that category. -- Professor Matt Goodwin, author of Revolt on the Right 'How Democracies Die' comes at exactly the right moment. We're already awash in public indignation - what we desperately need is a sober, dispassionate look at the current state of affairs. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, two of the most respected scholars in the field of democracy studies, offer just that. -- Christian Caryl * Washington Post * The sobriety is welcome and it adds a quiet, understated chill to the text. -- Roger Boyes * The Times * The show is likely to go on. To work out why, readers should turn to...How Democracies Die. The great strength of it is that it rejects the exceptionalist account of US democracy. -- Edward Luce * Financial Times * Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies have collapsed elsewhere-not just through violent coups, but more commonly (and insidiously) through a gradual slide into authoritarianism.... How Democracies Die is a lucid and essential guide to what can happen here. * New York Times * We're already awash in public indignation-what we desperately need is a sober, dispassionate look at the current state of affairs. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, two of the most respected scholars in the field of democracy studies, offer just that. * The Washington Post * Grander, more didactic ambitions underpin "How Democracies Die" ... a more scholarly approach * The Economist * Named a 'Book of the Week' -- Fareed Zakaria on Fareed Zakaria's GPS on CNN The great strength of Levitsky and Ziblatt's How Democracies Die is that it rejects the exceptionalist account of US democracy. Their lens is comparative. The authors say America is not immune to the trends that have led to democracy's collapse in other parts of the world. * Financial Times * The big advantage of political scientists over even the shrewdest and luckiest of eavesdropping journalists is that they have the training to give us a bigger picture.... [Levitsky and Ziblatt] bring to bear useful global and historical context... [showing] the mistakes democratic politicians make as they let dangerous demagogues into the heart of power. * The Sunday Times * The authors argue, with good evidence, that democracies aren't destroyed because of the impulses of a single man; they are, instead, degraded in the course of a partisan tit-for-tat dynamic that degrades norms over time until one side sees an opening to deliver the death blow. Donald Trump is not a dictator. But it's impossible to read How Democracies Die without worrying that our collective decay of democratic norms may open the door to one down the line-perhaps even one of an entirely different ideological persuasion. * Wall Street Journal * Where Levitsky and Ziblatt make their mark is in weaving together political science and historical analysis of both domestic and international democratic crises; in doing so, they expand the conversation beyond Trump and before him, to other countries and to the deep structure of American democracy and politics. -- Ezra Klein * Vox * How Democracies Die studies the modern history of apparently healthy democracies that have slid into autocracy. It is hard to read this fine book without coming away terribly concerned about the possibility Trump might inflict a mortal wound on the health of the republic.... It is simplistic to expect boots marching in the streets, but there will be a battle for democracy. -- Jonathan Chait * New York Magazine * Readers will not find an anti-Trump screed in How Democracies Die. The book is more erudite than alarmist... but that makes [Levitsky and Ziblatt's] clarity on the risk of both Trump and wider political developments all the more powerful. * California magazine * Chilling... A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump's ascent and the fall of other democracies. * Kirkus Reviews * Levitsky and Ziblatt are not entirely pessimistic... but they leave readers in no doubt that they should be worried about the state of American democracy. * Slate * Maybe have a drink before digging into this one. Levitsky and Ziblatt trace the fall of democracies throughout history with agonizing clarity, going right up to our current perilous moment. * Entertainment Weekly * [How Democracies Die] is a stellar deep-dive into a series of modern democracies that ceased to be. * Daily Kos *
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About Steven Levitsky

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are Professors of Government at Harvard University. Levitsky's research focuses on Latin America and the developing world. He is the author of Competitive Authoritarianism and is the recipient of numerous teaching awards. Ziblatt studies Europe from the nineteenth century to the present. He is the author, most recently, of Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy. Both Levitsky and Ziblatt have written for Vox and The New York Times, among other publications.
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Rating details

392 ratings
4.35 out of 5 stars
5 51% (198)
4 38% (149)
3 9% (34)
2 2% (8)
1 1% (3)
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