Book reviews: Does democracy work?
Six reviews that I’ve written recently, on books that assess the state of democracy:
Review of Democracy in Retreat by Joshua Kurlantzick. Forthcoming in International Public Management Review. “Kurlantzick provides a detailed account of how our end-of-the-millennium exuberance about the spread of democracy dissipated so quickly. Around the world, Kurlantzick says, an unhappy middle class has slipped away from the pro-democracy camp. What can be done to draw the middle class back? This is a critical question which Kurlantick only begins to answer — and perhaps cannot be answered neatly in a work of this breadth.” Read the draft on SSRN.
Review of Why Government Fails So Often, by Peter Schuck. Forthcoming in Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. “Yale law professor Peter Schuck has had a firsthand view of how the field of public policy analysis developed over forty years . . . Some lessons, according to Schuck: The design and implementation of public policy is much more difficult than was appreciated in the early 1970s. The U.S. government is a vast and growing graveyard of failed programs. And there is no good prospect that the performance of federal agencies will improve any time soon.” Read the draft of SSRN. Read the published version in JPAM.
Review of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. Published in Public Administration Review on November 3, 2014. “Mann and Ornstein have some practical suggestions on how to make Washington work better. But the remedies may be unequal to the underlying problem: a profound shift in the structure of American politics, and attitudes about the role of the federal government in American life.” Read the draft on SSRN.
Review of The Confidence Trap by David Runciman. Now published in Acta Politica. “The title suggests a critique of the world’s established democracies . . . On close inspection, though, Runciman’s apprehensions prove to be overstated — and what is left is a muted but still positive appraisal of democratic governance.” Read the draft on SSRN.
Review of Breaking Democracy’s Spell by John Dunn. Now published in Governance. “We have been narcoticized by our faith in the power of democratic processes, Dunn says, and as a result we are neglecting existential threats. But is the alarm about democracy justified — and if so, how are we supposed to respond to it? On both questions, Breaking Democracy’s Spell may leave readers unsatisfied.” Read the draft on SSRN.
Review of The Fourth Revolution by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. Now published in Public Administration. “The main effect of The Fourth Revolution is to show how stale the conservative rhetoric about reform has become.” Read the draft on SSRN.