There’s still hope for democracy


Ever since the rise of demagogues and strongmen, particularly US President Donald Trump to the highest seat of power in a democracy, the liberals have been expressing fears that the end of democracy may be nearing.

David Runciman, a reputed professor of politics at Cambridge, in his new book How Democracy Ends explores all the recent dangers that have been pointed out by people from various walks of life and after a careful examination of such facets, instils hope in his readers.

He opens the book by revisiting the past, the times when democratic rights of people were subdued and then focuses on polarisation of extreme views in the past. He asks if the situation facing the United States, or many other parts of the world for that matter, today is a mere repetition of the horror movie that we have seen in the past.

In his scintillating chronicle of our times, Runciman maintains that the current situation is not so.

Donald Trump, according to the author, may be an old man with the political personality of a child, but he is certainly not a proto-Hitler. The author contends that the current situation is not similar to the first half of the 20th century in Europe.

Similarly, Vladimir Putin, according to the book, presides over a parody democracy in Russia, but there are little similarities between him and Stalin. Runciman agrees that these recent symptoms of democratic decay may come across as familiar instances to many of us, but, according to him, the problems we’re facing today are much different in their scope from what had been earlier.

Runciman regrets that representative governments in recent years have lost the capacity to reinvigorate themselves.

But, despite all its flaws, democracy repairs itself and Runciman acknowledges this fact. “One of the facets that he constantly refers to is a democracy’s capacity to self-question and self-correct itself every time that it seems to go out of control. Things can go wrong but eventually the democratic process itself will set it right,” he says.

The book instils hope in readers and maintains that even though things may look pretty messed up right now in many countries, primarily the US, eventually they will be back in place — a lesson for future voters.

Title: How Democracy Ends
Author: David Runciman
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 249
Price: Rs 599