Hadrian's Reviews > The Life and Death of Democracy

The Life and Death of Democracy by John Keane
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's review
Dec 30, 11

bookshelves: history, politics-and-foreign-policy, nonfiction
Read on December 30, 2011

This is a massive book, one which approaches a familiar topic from a unique perspective.

According to the author, there are three stages of democracy: assembly, which is often associated with ancient Greece; representative, which is the form of democracy later espoused in the 18th and 19th centuries and is the foundation of the modern American model, and the current form, the outpouring of the most modern era, and typified through India - monitored democracy.

Keane asserts that ancient democracy was not wholly from Athens - he posits that ancient Phoenician city-states and parts of Mesopotamia, as well as other Greek states, had democracy of some form. After this collapsed, democracy waned for a few centuries, save a few thinkers, isolated villages, and merchant republics. Even after the United States came into being as a democratic republic, there were strong and significant undercurrents against it, with totalitarian movements rising to power in the 20th century in Europe, but also caudillos and warlords in South America.

The historical analysis is solid here, save a few minor factual errors, which are bound to crop up in a work of this size. When we approach the modern era, though, this moves into the realm of the hypothetical.

Monitored democracy, as shown as a case example in India, is where power is decentralized and monitored through NGOs, etc. Democracy has also been implemented in new hybrid forms, combining elements of traditional culture, religion, etc.

Also a brief segment on the future of democracy, on 'viral' democracy and the internet, as well as the difficulties of adequate local representation over such large polities.
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