cover image The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure

The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure

Yascha Mounk. Penguin Press, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-29681-3

Accommodating migrants and racial and religious minorities in democratic countries is a difficult but necessary project, according to this hopeful meditation on a multicultural world. Political scientist Mounk (The People vs. Democracy) explores the ingrained “groupishness” that separates people into arbitrary warring camps—in one study he cites, schoolboys who preferred modernist painter Paul Klee discriminated against those who liked artist Wassily Kandinsky—and notes that democracies often handle diversity badly, either through the domination of minorities by a majority, or by fragmentation into hostile tribes. But he opposes voices on the right who argue that only monocultural nation states are stable, as well as those on the left who champion the overthrow of majority cultures by militant minority identity politics. Instead, he advocates a multicultural patriotism that welcomes and integrates minorities and migrants, using the metaphor of a public park, in which distinctive groups can harmoniously connect. Writing with insight, nuance, and sympathy to all sides, Mounk stakes out moderate positions—for instance, he argues that borders secure from illegal crossings can reconcile citizens to large-scale migration—that will please neither of the extremes in the culture wars over demographic change. This perceptive account stakes out a firm middle ground. Agent: Amelia Atlas, ICM Partners. (Apr.)