Two Harvard professors explain the dangerous world we face today
Democracies can die with a coup d'état - 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.
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)
There are two must-read books about the Trump presidency at the moment. This is the one you probably haven't heard of. It is also the one that is most useful to British readers. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are anti-Donald Trump politics professors at Harvard. And 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.
They set out some rules about the slow, internal collapse of democracies, which are entirely relevant to Britain... (Andrew Marr The Times)
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)
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)