All political systems come to an end, even democracies - David Runciman shows us how to recognise the signs and how to think about what might come next.
Democracy has died hundreds of times, all over the world. We know what that looks like: chaos descends and the military arrives to restore order, until the people can be trusted to look after their own affairs again. Often, that moment never comes, but there is a danger that this picture is out of date.
Until very recently, most citizens of Western democracies would have imagined that the end was a long way off, and very few would have thought it might be happening before their eyes as Trump, Brexit and paranoid populism have become a reality.
Are we looking for a better way of doing politics, or are we looking for something better than politics? David Runciman, one of the UK's leading professors of politics, answers all this and more as he surveys the political landscape of the West, helping us to recognise the signs of a collapsing democracy and advising us on what to do next.
About the Author
David Runciman is Professor of Politics at Cambridge University and Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies. He is the author of five previous books, including Political Hypocrisy, The Confidence Trap and Politics (for the Ideas in Profile series). He writes regularly about politics for the London Review of Books and hosts the widely acclaimed weekly podcast Talking Politics.
Scintillating ... thought-provoking ... Runciman's flair for turning a pithy and pungent phrase is one of the things to admire about his writing. The cogency, subtlety and style with which he teases out the paradoxes and perils faced by democracy makes this one of the very best of the great crop of recent books on the subject. -- Andrew Rawnsley * Observer *
Presented in pellucid prose free of the jargon of academic political science, How Democracy Ends is a strikingly readable and richly learned contribution to understanding the world today ... surely one of the most luminously intelligent books on politics to have been published for many years. -- John Gray * New Statesman *
Bracingly intelligent...a wonderful read -- Mark Mazower * Guardian *
Breezy yet incisive...Runciman may not have all the answers, but there is certainly plenty of nourishment here. -- Klaus Dodds * Geographical *
Full of intriguing new lines of thought -- Gideon Rachman * FT *
Refreshingly, rather than a knicker-twisting diatribe about Trump and Brexit, Runciman offers a thoughtful analysis about what popular democracy means, and its alternatives. -- Katrina Gulliver * Spectator *
Clear-headed, compact and timely * Irish Times *
An excellent book: it is well-written, evenly paced, accessible, non-academic in tone but very much so in rigour and thoughtfulness. It is sceptical but not pessimistic, and warnful but not alarmist ... It is heartily recommended for anyone who seeks to understand our current malaise and interested in this question of how democracy got to where it is today, and where it may go - if anywhere - next. * LSE Review of Books *
Refreshingly free of received and rehearsed wisdoms, Runciman doesn't tiptoe around sacred cows and invites us to take part in that most adult way of thinking: to examine contradictory ideas in tandem and ponder what the dissonance amounts to. . . . [H]e argues lucidly, persuasively, even exhilaratingly at times. The nightly news will never appear exactly the same again * Australian *
Praise for The Confidence Trap: Runciman's book abounds with fresh insights, arresting paradoxes, and new ways of posing old problems -- Andrew Gamble * Times Literary Supplement *
This rich and refreshing book will be of intense interest to anyone puzzled by the near paralysis that seems to afflict democratic government in a number of countries -- John Gray * New York Review of Books *
As a corrective to the doom-and-gloomsters, this book makes some telling points, and he is a clear and forceful writer -- Mark Mazower * Financial Times *
Runciman is a good writer and brave pioneer. . . . The picture he sketches is agreeably bold * Sydney Morning Herald *
[An] ingenious account . . . Runciman concludes that democracy will probably survive, having made a delightfully stimulating, if counterintuitive case, that the unnerving tendency of democracies to stumble into crises is matched by their knack for getting out of them * Publishers Weekly *
What we get here is good history. The events at the seven junctures are presented in a way that is learned, concise and informative -- Stein Ringen * International Affairs *
Those who cannot remember history, George Santayana observed, are condemned to repeat it. Except he's wrong, according to David Runciman. In his admirable analysis, How Democracy Ends, he says the trouble is that we remember the least helpful bits of history, perpetually harking back to the 1930s to explain the aspects of modern politics we like least: Trump especially. Really we'd be better off comparing and contrasting ourselves with ancient Athens, the world's purest democracy. * Evening Standard *