کتاب دموکراسی ها چگونه می میرند

اثر استیون لویتسکی از انتشارات بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب پارسه - مترجم: سیامک دل آرا-ادبیات آمریکا

In the 21st century democracy is threatened like never before. Drawing insightful lessons from across history - from Pinochets murderous Chilean regime to Erdogans quiet dismantling in Turkey - Levitsky and Ziblatt explain why democracies fail, how leaders like Trump subvert them today and what each of us can do to protect our democratic rights. 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.


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This book is a sobering consideration of how democratic governments have, through subtle and even legal steps, evolved into authoritarian states. If American norms--political interaction not legislated but tacitly agreed upon--continue to be eroded we, too, could quickly find ourselves watching the last days of a democratic America.

The authors present the histories of countries that were democracies and became authoritarian, highlighting the strategies used by populist leaders to bring the system into their control. Later chapters consider the history of our political parties as gatekeepers as well as the source of conflict. A sad reality is that consensus has only occurred in America when the racist elements have been appeased.

And I am not just talking about slave owning states bulking up their political power by making slaves 3/5ths of a person, or the later repression of voting rights. As my readings in late 20th c political history have taught, the repression of African American, and the poor, is active to this day. I was a young adult when I heard our politicians call for law and order and the end of welfare queens and young bucks drawing the dole. If after the mid-century Civil Rights protests we could not be above board with racism, it morphed into new language.

I was shocked not to have noticed before that recent anti-immigration movements are rooted in a desire to weaken the Democratic party, since most immigrants, along with people of color, vote Democratic. I knew it was overt racism, just missed that connection.

After leading readers through history the authors turn to todays political situation, evaluating the administrations tendency toward authoritarianism. As by the end of 2017, the system of checks and balances appear to be working. BUT, if the Republican party is complicit, the breakdown can happen here.

In the end, the authors offer how the Democratic party should respond to the crisis--not by imitating the Tea Party methods, or by giving up identity politics and letting the disenfranchised flounder, but by committing to consensus politics, forming a broad coalition, and restoring the basic norms that worked in the past: mutual toleration and forbearance.

I think this is one of the most enlightening books I have read recently. I highly recommend it.

I received a free book through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.


مشاهده لینک اصلی
How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt is an examination of the Donald Trump presidency in the United States, and its tendencies toward authoritarianism. The authors are both adept at examining Latin American politics and similar subjects in countries like Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, and there analysis takes their skills in these study areas and applies them to the current administration in the United States. The authors use four behaviours of a would-be authoritarian, taken from years of study in this area. These four behaviours are:

1. Rejection or weak commitment to democratic norms: In this category they look at other authoritarian states from around the globe in recent years, including Russian, Peruvian and eastern European states and there leaders. This encompasses a rejection of democratic norms and an implementation of populist style policies to reduce democratic traditions, rework checks and balances, and/or enhance personal or executive power. This can be done both through illegal or illegitimate means, such as using military power, threats of lawsuits, dissolving political systems and so on - or through legitimate ones, such as packing courts and legislatures. The authors note that Trump has engaged in this area, by threatening to reject election results if they went against him in 2016. He also seems willing to try and change administrative and legislative policies through executive action or by threatening to remove or fire opponents.

2. Denial of legitimacy of political opponents: This is a tool used by those with authoritarian ideals to remove, cajole or silence opponents in the system. It can be done by attacking opponents through the media, or by utilizing rhetoric centered on violence to threaten political opponents. These scenarios have played out frequently in Latin America, but are also seen in Eastern Europe and other authoritarian states. This is an adept way to hamper ones opponents, threaten them, and potentially scare them off all in one, while also being popular with voters who dislike or reject current political systems or elites. Trumps frequent clashes with the media, his campaign slogan of @Lock her up!@ as a rallying tactic, threats against staffer, and his frequent rhetoric against legitimate institutions were all unprecedented in modern American politics, and comfortably fit into this category of authoritarian behaviour.

3. Toleration or encouragement of violence: This one is pretty obvious. Authoritarian candidates are often fringe politicians, and threats or the utilization of violence are ways to remove political opponents, gather and rally support, and increase ones personal control. This can come in the form of coup attempts (such as in Venezuela under Chavez, or in Argentina, Chile, Brazil etc.) or through the use of violent rhetoric as a campaign tactic (seen in Orbans Hungary, for example, or in Turkey). Trump engaged in this tactic on his campaign trail, seemingly encouraging violence against protestors and those speaking there mind against his politics. This sort of behaviour is a direct threat to free speech, and can lead to advantageous situations for a would-be authoritarian to take advantage of or gain support from.

4. Readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including the media: This one should be obvious as well. It is common for authoritarian rulers to take control of a nation by closing down opposition media outlets or stacking them with loyalists, threatening political opponents with jail time or removing them or exiling them somehow, and generally stamping out attempts at dissent against the regime. This has happened in many authoritarian regimes - look at Russia and many pre-1990s Latin American regimes for examples. Trump has frequently attacked the media, threatened lawsuits, fired political opponents, attempted to staff bureaucratic positions with loyalists, and so on.

The authors conclude that Trump has engaged in all four behaviour categories of an authoritarian leader. They stipulate that although these categories may be present, they do not necessarily show that the US has skewed authoritarian. The authors spend much of the book looking at ways these categories can be countered. Examples include uniting opposition regardless of bipartisan support, upholding the check and balances of the states, setting red lines within a political party against the authoritarian leader and so on. These examples are all present in the Trump administration, although the authors worry about the increasingly extremist views of each party in terms of their bipartisanism, and how this increasing divide weakens the political party system and threatens to sell democracy short in exchange for ideology. The authors also note that Trump is not the only President to ever have authoritarian tendencies in one form or another. From Obamas executive order spree, to Bushs Patriot Act, to Roosevelt and his attempts to push through major changes to the Constitution in favour of New Deal principles, these tendencies have always been present in the US. Other issues, such as restrictive voting laws becoming more popular in Republican states (strict voter ID laws etc.), filtering media bias, and other issues with a modern democracy are also discussed in some detail.

All in all, this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The authors argue that a democracy must remain vigilant against threats by authoritarian candidates, and gives good recent examples and comparisons of why from nations around the world, including Hungary, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Poland. The focus on the Trump presidency is certainly timely, although the saturation of similar books and articles bellies the seemingly benign and chaotic nature of the Trump presidency. Trump seems more an anti-establishment candidate than an authoritarian one, and although his attempts at change seem authoritarian in behaviour, I personally feel it is less of a political calculation on his part to gain more power, than a querulous reaction to his lack of popularity and support. Far from being a danger to democracy, Trump is more a siren for growing bipartisan extremism in the United States, and the complete lack of middle ground between the USs two political parties. This is something the authors discuss in some detail, but do not fully elaborate on.

Another criticism I have of the book is its all-encompassing support for an expansion of Liberalism in the US. The authors seemingly advocate for what they call @gatekeeping@ - the use of party insiders and kingmaker style politicians to screen candidates for behaviour and principles acceptable to the party, and not the voting public. Although this would reduce the mass populism seen in modern democracies, the reduction of the voting publics ability to choose a candidate is not necessarily democratic either, and can also lead to an erosion of democratic principles and institutions, not toward authoritarianism, but toward aristocracy or oligarchy. More democracy is certainly not always better, but fighting fire with fire can also be dangerous.

I am a bit critical of this book, suffice to say it has interesting ideas in it. The examination of authoritarian states globally and the behaviour of candidates with authoritarian tendencies in a democracy sliding away from its principles was the most interesting part. Examinations of Hungary, Poland and the destruction of Venezuelas democracy, or the expansion of President Fujimoris power in Peru in the 1990s were fascinating. Even some of the examinations of the changes in the US political landscape were interesting, if a bit @too soon@ in my opinion. However, the political commentary was muddling. The advocation for countering authoritarianism through decreasing voter rights to choose candidates from outside the establishment was wonky. The rhetoric on Trumps political ambitions seems to give him a bit to much credit in my opinion. Far from a demagogue, he seems more like a failed populist, although things can certainly change. This was an interesting read for sure; I would definitely recommend it for readers voraciously devouring anything on the Trump presidency, and for those interested in a lighter read on political theory, but overall it lacks the depth and concise analysis that other books on authoritarianism in democratic systems possess.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
On the surface, this is a book about the internal contradictions of democracy and how those vulnerabilities can be exploited by those interested in authoritarian power with, in the case of the Republicans, a “white nationalist appeal.” It’s a valid assessment to about half of us, and they make a very strong historical and horrifying case in support of it. (think fascism, communism, and MAGA-ism)

Every coin, of course, has two sides. The failure or success of any political system, including democracy, will always be a matter of perspective. You say to-mah-to, I say to-may-to. One person’s democratic failure is someone else’s democratic validation, and there is little question as to which side of that perspective the authors come down on. “Moreover, America is no longer a democratic model.”

It struck me, as I read the book, that what the authors are ultimately arguing is that the coin of democracy, which they acknowledge as having two sides, should be kept very, very thin. The democratic failure they expertly portray, in other words, is a failure in moderation.

The need for moderation, the authors convincingly argue, was well understood by the Founding Fathers. That is why we have three branches of government, the rule of law, a dual-chambered legislative body that virtually ignores the concept of popular representation in one of its chambers (e.g., the U.S. Senate), and the Electoral College, which, as the authors note, was, in the beginning, even less democratic than it is today, because the delegates had virtually no obligation to behave as the voters instructed them to.

It is this political machinery, and the all-powerful two party system that grew out of it, that has, until now, according to the authors, kept political extremists at bay. Inexperienced outsiders like Henry Ford, George Wallace, and Huey Long may have made a lot of noise among the populists, but were kept at bay by the party bosses who, by implication, were protecting some higher standard of democratic ideals.

The “thin coin” argument, however, is always employed by the side of the coin that is out of favor, or, more specifically, out of power. It is, however, a semantic argument. Did democracy fail or did it finally succeed?

There is little question as to the authors’ political perspective on that question. “This all [the nomination of Trump] should have set off alarm bells. The primary process had failed in its gatekeeping role and allowed a man unfit for office to run as a mainstream party candidate.” The result: “President Trump’s is the least prodemocratic of any U.S. administration since Nixon’s. Moreover, America is no longer a democratic model.” The Republican objective: “…use the techniques of constitutional hardball to manufacture durable white electoral majorities.” To be accomplished, of course, through large scale electoral reengineering that includes massive deportations, abusive voter registration laws, etc.

The book is well researched and well written. It will, however, do little to bridge the current partisan divide. In the end, the “thin coin” argument is an argument in support of centrism. Is that, however, really what people on either side of the political aisle want? Both political parties, it seems, are internally fractured between centrists and the more extreme wings of each ideology.

I do agree with the authors’ assessment that, “When American democracy has worked, it has relied upon two norms that we often take for granted—mutual tolerance and institutional forbearance.” That is spot on and why I would agree with the authors when they argue, “In our view, the idea that Democrats should ‘fight like Republicans’ is misguided.” I don’t, however, support their conclusion, “Reducing [political] polarization requires that the Republican Party be reformed, if not refounded outright.” That’s another “thin coin” argument.

I personally don’t believe, moreover, that pushing politics back into the smoke-filled back rooms, in an effort to keep the outsiders at bay, is what anyone wants. My own sense is that things have changed. Technology, in short, has redefined the way we live, work, and learn, and doubling down on the old coin isn’t going to work. What we need, instead, is a new coin. We don’t need a to-may-to or a to-mah-to so much as we need something completely new and different.

Those of us who lived through half of the 20th Century or more know full well the perils and failure of fascism, communism, and authoritarianism. These, however, were manifestations of an either/or world. As technology integrates our global environment, our economies, and our societies, the either/or world that gives rise to the “thin coin” debate makes that debate less and less relevant. We need, instead, to think in terms of and/but. We need to think less in terms of limiting extremism of any variety and more in terms of how we create a more inclusive and just world.

Historians deal in historical facts and figures. The best historians, however, rise above those facts and figures to help us to better understand the context in which they came to be. In doing that they prepare us to make a more informed decision about the future.

While the authors, in this case, have painted a vivid historical picture that will appeal to all of the people who now feel they are looking in, myself included, they fail, in my view, to rise above the historical facts and figures to give us a viable vision for the future. That makes for a very interesting read, but not one on which to build an inclusive and prosperous America.


مشاهده لینک اصلی
I found this book fascinating. Ziblatt and Levitsky are respected scholars in the field of democracy studies. They teach at Harvard University.

The book is well written and researched. It is written in an easy to read style that is easy for the lay person to follow. The first part of the book reviewed how democracies around the world have fallen to authoritarian regimes over the years. The authors explain three key important elements vital to a democracy and then go into detail about each country and whether one or all elements were involved in its demise. The authors also have revealed in detail how some countries have over thrown the authoritarian regime and returned to a democracy even stronger than before. I found the method used in Chile to return to a democracy most interesting. The last part of the book examines the United States and examines attacks on our democracy and how they were successfully repelled. The authors examine in-depth the first year of Trump’s administration. Levitsky and Ziblatt show how a democracy fails and most important what can be done to protect the democracy. From reading this book one thing that I was struck with is how critical it is to maintaining our democracy to solve our race problem. The book is written in a neutral academic method. This book is a must read for everyone living in a democracy.

I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. It is such an important reference book I am going to purchase a hardback edition. The book is almost eight and a half hours. Fred Sanders does an excellent job narrating the book. Sanders is an actor and well-known audiobook narrator. He has a smooth reading style that is easy to listen too.


مشاهده لینک اصلی
This book was quite disappointing. I was expecting a thorough analysis on how stable democracies turned into authoritarian regimes; in contrast, the book only does a quick overview of some modern dictatorships and then delves into the United States democratic history. Finally, the book concludes with some possible solutions to the current political crisis in the US, but these solutions dont seem to be founded on whats written in the rest of the book.

On the upside, the essay presents many interesting concepts that allow to assess if an outsider politician shows authoritarian traits. Also, the first chapters of the book make a strong point about the unwritten rules that are tacitly understood and respected because they support democracies. As the book thoroughly states, no constitution can set the basis for the functioning of a whole country. Another strong point of the book is its portrayal of politicians and political parties as the main responsible for safeguarding democracy.

Perhaps the most frustrating bit of this essay is that it covers all authoritarian regimes under the same umbrella. It does not include, in the analysis of how democracies have died in the past, the analysis of specific social and economical phenomena that may have elicited the rise to power of authoritarian personalities. It is almost vexing to state that the rise of power of Pinochet (a hard right dictator) happened under the same circumstances as that of Chavez (an extreme left populist).

Finally, although the authors repeatedly visit Latin American dictatorships in look for examples, they never mention the fact that some of these (as in Chile and Nicaragua) would have been dead in their tracks had them not been financially supported by the US government. Perhaps the US policy of sponsoring dictatorships, when it fits their political agenda, has contributed to the political nightmare they are currently living in nowadays.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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