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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Jun-18 > Books in brief

Books in brief

How Democracy Ends
by David Runciman (Profile, £14.99)

Our democracy has grown tired and middle aged. It lacks the heady optimism of a century ago, and is under assault from populists unhappy with a system that doesn’t serve the people as well as it once did. The rise of conspiracy theories—facilitated by the internet—and the resurgence of nationalism have disturbed the equilibrium of once stable western nations. In countries where democracy has more shallow roots, such as Turkey and Hungary, authoritarians are looking to the Chinese model of pragmatic elitism rather than to the unruly, dysfunctional west.

David Runciman’s analysis might seem pessimistic but, unlike thinkers such as Jason Brennan or Dambisa Moyo who argue the better-educated should be favoured in the voting system, he hasn’t lost faith in the electorate. The solution, says Runciman, is not more elite rule but a more responsive democracy, particularly when it comes to economics. “Voters need a sense that the future will be materially better than the past if they are to resist the appeal of politicians who tell them that the present is the fault of someone else.” He also isn’t tempted by the siren call of nationalism, rightly pointing out that democracy cannot turn into what de Tocqueville called the “tyranny of the majority.”

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In Prospect’s June issue: Isabel Hilton, Rana Mitter, Kerry Brown and Yuan Ren debate the rise of China and what it means for the UK and the rest of the world. Hilton argues that China’s ideas could dominate the next century, just as American ideas dominated the last. Rana Mitter charts how those ideas have developed from Confucius to modern political theorist Wang Huning. Kerry Brown explores how Australia is dealing with the rise of China, by reimagining itself as an Asian country and drifting from the US. Yuan Ren asks whether China’s young people will forge a new path for the country in the coming decades. Elsewhere in the issue: Steve Bloomfield explores Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy, asking whether Britain would become a silent protester on the global sideline; Jonathan Liew asks if the World Cup has seen better days; Miranda France explores the life and meaning of Frida Kahlo, and Simon Jenkins says Trump’s charge through the China shop of world affairs is not all bad news.
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