Democracy Rules

Jan-Werner Müller. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-13647-5
The present-day travails of democracy spark a review of its first principles in this muddled meditation. Princeton political scientist Müller (What Is Populism?) probes the standoff between democracy as a creed of freedom and equality and the right-wing populism exemplified by Donald Trump’s presidency, the Brexit vote, and the rise of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe, which seeks to narrowly define who the “real people” are and exclude everyone else. Müller views the struggle through a wide-ranging survey of political theory and practice, including the participatory democracy of ancient Athens, where decision-makers were chosen by lot; the role of political parties and the press in shaping and empowering political constituencies; and the importance of a “loyal opposition” that accepts the validity of elections even when it loses. Müller’s hang-dog take on democracy (“Those bent on subverting it are at least as busy perfecting a populist-authoritarian art of governance as defenders of democracy are racing to issue crisis manuals”) isn’t very directional: he’s contemptuous of Trumpism, but also leery of “Trump derangement syndrome,” and possibly open to a “militant democracy” that suppresses potentially anti-democratic tendencies. This ruminative sketch asks plenty of pressing questions, but offers few clear answers. Photos. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency. (July)
Reviewed on : 03/17/2021
Release date: 05/11/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-250-84917-5
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