THE DEMON IN DEMOCRACY: TOTALITARIAN TEMPTATIONS IN FREE SOCIETIES BY RYSZARD LEGUTKO (Encounter Books)
Legutko is a Polish professor of philosophy who witnessed the worst excesses of communism in his homeland. But 25 years after welcoming liberal democracy and observing its workings in the West, he paints a deeply troubling picture of what is now almost a theology. The book takes a hard look at Western liberalism and its shortcomings.
WHY LIBERALISM FAILED BY PATRICK DENEEN (Yale University Press)
The so-called crisis of democracy in the West did not emerge out of the blue with the election of leaders like Donald Trump or Hungary’s Viktor Orban. The last wave of globalisation that began in 1991 and entered a crisis phase after the 2008 financial crisis left a large number of ‘left behinds’. These were people who lost out in terms of specialised education, essential for well-paying jobs, and there is now a ‘global underclass’ in the original homelands of globalisation. Deneen looks at these trends and why they ultimately threaten liberalism itself.
AGAINST DEMOCRACY BY JASON BRENNAN (Princeton University Press)
Is democracy the ‘only game in town’? For a quarter century, no other political idea has come close to rivalling democracy as an option. The defeat of fascism in the first half of the 20thcentury and communism in its second half exhausted the alternatives. Brennan takes a hard look at democracy, playing Devil’s Advocate for other ideas. His theme of picking the ‘best option’ in terms of governance and personnel unsettles many, but the book is filled with interesting and contrarian insights.
#REPUBLIC: DIVIDED DEMOCRACY IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA BY CASS SUNSTEIN (Princeton University Press)
When the Arab Spring began in 2010, social media was hailed as a new tool for securing freedom in authoritarian countries of the Middle East. Almost a decade later, the picture is murky. From allegations of interference in elections to political polarisation across countries, social media now evokes mixed thoughts. Sunstein looks at the different outcomes that can emerge from the use of these tools.
STRANGERS IN OUR MIDST: THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF IMMIGRATION BY DAVID MILLER (Harvard University Press)
Written at the height of the wave of migrations from Africa to Europe that threatened the social fabric of receiving countries, Miller’s book casts a different light on the question of immigration: the responsibility of governments towards those who elected them in the first place. It is fashionable now to champion the ‘rights’ of migrants and immigrants with claims that migration offers the only hope of reducing inequalities. Miller questions the politics behind such assertions at the cost of citizens who have toiled to secure what they have.
AGAINST THE GRAIN: A DEEP HISTORY OF THE EARLIEST STATES BY JAMES C SCOTT (Yale University Press)
Received wisdom, imparted in universities, says that state-based societies reaped the benefits of civilisation while non-state groups lost out in the race. In a revisionist history, Scott paints a different picture of a process that led to ‘free people’ being subjected to violence and disease at the start of the historic process of state-building. It is a sequel of sorts to his earlier work on regions of Asia that have been hard to draw into the state-system. It is a different view of civilisation as we know it.
SECESSION AND SECURITY: EXPLAINING STATE STRATEGY AGAINST SEPARATISTS BY AHSAN I BUTT (Cornell University Press)
There are few countries that have allowed parts of their territory to secede without a fight. In the catalogue of wars of separation, many cases are about messy fights with a much smaller figure for successful ending of secessionist movements. When do countries pursue violent strategies and when do they combine these with negotiations? Butt examines many cases where such strategies have been put to use. His chapter on insurgencies in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab is probably the most interesting comparative analysis of Indian materials in a long time.