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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) eBook Kindle
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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