How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky

How Democracies Die

A bracing, revelatory look at the demise of liberal democracies around the world--and a road map for rescuing our ownDonald Trump's presidency has raised a question that many of us never thought we'd be asking: Is our democracy in danger? Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ...

Details How Democracies Die

TitleHow Democracies Die
Release DateJan 16th, 2018
PublisherCrown Publishing Group (NY)
GenrePolitics, Nonfiction, History, Political Science

Reviews How Democracies Die

  • Michael Austin
    I have not read Fire and Fury and doubt that I will. It seems too much like gossip to me, and too similar to the truckload of OBAMA IS DESTROYING AMERICA books that occurred during the last administration. But I bought How Democracy Dies the first day it came out, and read it in an evening because it gives exactly the kind of historical analysis that, I think, we need to understand in 2018. Levitsky and Ziblatt are genuine scholars (at Harvard ev...
  • Faith
    This is a well-researched analysis of the factors leading to the death of democracies, the signs of the rise of authoritarianism and the threats to the checks and balances that were supposed to prevent the election of demagogues. It outlines strategies employed by elected authoritarians to consolidate their control: "capture the referees, sideline the key players and rewrite the rules to tilt the playing field". The authors demonstrate how Trump ...
  • Nancy
    This book is a sobering consideration of how democratic governments have, through subtle and even legal steps, evolved into authoritarian states. If American norms--political interaction not legislated but tacitly agreed upon--continue to be eroded we, too, could quickly find ourselves watching the last days of a democratic America.The authors present the histories of countries that were democracies and became authoritarian, highlighting the stra...
  • Richard
    Depressing! I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Written by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, and published in the United States by Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, New York in 2018, the book consists of a detailed and concise account of various democratic governments that have collapsed in relatively recent history, and how...
  • Peter Mcloughlin
    Lays the blame for the fall of democracies on the erosion of the guardrails (unwritten rules) of the polity. Also lays a big chunk of the blame for the decay of democracy at the party or legal gatekeepers failing to weed out extremists and outsiders. Outsiders and extremists are not well known for respecting established procedural forms of democracy and will break the guardrails of democracy and turn towards autocracy. This has been the form auth...
  • Katia N
    This book analyses historic examples how certain countries (Chile and Venezuela, but also the others) have moved from the democracy to autocratic and totalitarian regimes. The authors compare those examples with the current situation in America. They state that apart from the written laws and established institutions there are also unwritten norms and “forbearance” - accepting the opposition as a legitimate player. And when those things are u...
  • Jean Poulos
    I found this book fascinating. Ziblatt and Levitsky are respected scholars in the field of democracy studies. They teach at Harvard University.The book is well written and researched. It is written in an easy to read style that is easy for the lay person to follow. The first part of the book reviewed how democracies around the world have fallen to authoritarian regimes over the years. The authors explain three key important elements vital to a de...
  • Gary Moreau
    On the surface, this is a book about the internal contradictions of democracy and how those vulnerabilities can be exploited by those interested in authoritarian power with, in the case of the Republicans, a “white nationalist appeal.” It’s a valid assessment to about half of us, and they make a very strong historical and horrifying case in support of it. (think fascism, communism, and MAGA-ism)Every coin, of course, has two sides. The fail...
  • Caren
    Fascinating book! I put everything aside this weekend and read it in a day. The authors, both professors of government at Harvard, not only look at warning signs of a democracy's decline based on others countries which have fallen into authoritarianism, but also at points in American history when that possibility existed here. They explain the "guardrails" which saved the USA in the past. Right at the start, they list four things to look for as a...
  • Angie Boyter
    When we think of a democracy dying, what comes to mind is usually a military coup or civil war or other sudden violent action. In How Democracies Die, Harvard Government professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt show how countries can lose their democracy more slowly and insidiously, often without a single shot fired.They assert that, beyond the obvious mechanisms we depend on like free and fair elections and a strong constitution, democracie...
  • Bruce Katz
    Rating a book like this with stars is entirely irrelevant. Written by two Harvard professors who have studied the lives and deaths of democracies around the world, the book rings a sober alarm about the precarious state of American democracy today. It lays out step by step how democracies have weakened and authoritarian regimes have taken their place -- sometimes dramatically, as with coups, and sometimes incrementally. As they demonstrate, our p...
  • Mehrsa
    This is the rare book where I liked their solutions section better than their descriptive section. At the end, they fight against those who say that the left needs to let go of its embrace of identity culture (i.e. embrace of multiculturalism). They say that would be a huge mistake and I agree. Basically, this book shows how other democracies aboard have fallen into autocracy (spoiler: there are more similarities between us and them than differen...
  • Keith Raffel
    A truly frightening book that shows how America is following in the footsteps of other countries that have given up democracy for authoritarianism: countries like Hungary (now), Chile under Pinochet, Turkey (now), Germany in the 1930s, and Italy in the 1920s. The authors set forth four indications of danger: 1) rejection of democratic rules of the game, 2) denial of the legitimacy of political opponents, 3) toleration or encouragement of violence...
  • Mal Warwick
    "Over the past two years, we have watched politicians say and do things that are unprecedented in the United States—but that we recognize as having been the precursors of democratic crisis in other places. We feel dread, as do so many other Americans, even as we try to reassure ourselves that things can't really be that bad here." But can they? Is American democracy dying? This is the question that Harvard government professors Steven Levitsky ...
  • David Rush
    Two basic norms have preserved America’s checks and balances in ways we have come to take for granted: mutual toleration, or the understanding that competing parties accept one another as legitimate rivals, and forbearance, or the idea that politicians should exercise restraint in deploying their institutional prerogatives. These two norms under-girded American democracy for most of the twentieth century. Pg. 8That pretty much sums up the whole...
  • Jim Razinha
    I am in an uncharacteristically long reader's block slump combined with distracting ADD and I've never used a horror story to break me out of previous ones. The horror story of a horrible defense not knowing how to play on Sunday wasn't exactly enough, but it did prompt me to finish this horror story. Sinclair Lewis published the unfortunately prophetic It Can't Happen Here and Levitsky and Ziblatt's relates the actuality of it happening here wit...
  • James
    An extremely important book which looks at democratic collapse in countries like Turkey and Venezuela and compares it to the current situation in the US. It's a terrifying harbinger of what's to come, while offering some solutions for the Democratic party and other US political elites to avoid a terminal death spiral brought about by extreme polarization and subversion of democratic norms.Some choice quotes:"In our view, the idea that Democrats s...
  • Conor Wilson
    It’s easy to think that democracies fail due to some cataclysmic event. Maybe a military coup, an invasion by a foreign force, or a revolution. However, this idea that the death of a democracy is sudden and dramatic does not confirm with the reality of the 20th and 21st centuries.Instead, the death of democracy is often slow. Political norms are thrown to the wayside and partisanship becomes ever more severe. In this environment it becomes easy...
  • Alan Johnson
    Although I question some of the small details of this book, the overall arguments are sound and well corroborated.
  • Gail
    10 stars if I could give it. If you’re a sentient being living in the United States you are likely worried about the country’s future. Some of you are concerned that America will never be “great again”. Some are terrified that this administration’s behavior and policies will ensure that we will end in ruin, sooner, not later. This book lays out the context for the polarization we are living with and sets the stage realizing that we are ...
  • Maria
    I want you to see this man. He's the reason why I had to read this book.I'll be honest I'm not the biggest fan of America. I'm rather indifferent about them but I'm also aware of the importance of this country for the rest of the world. So like many people I was concern when Donald Trump got into power specially because I had seen a man like that. I'm 20 years old and that is how long the Revolución Bolivariana has been in my country and sadly I...
  • Alex
    I got to read an early copy and interview one of the authors for California Magazine. Here's the start of that Q&A:Daniel Ziblatt has spent a career studying why democracies develop and how they die. Along with his co-author and fellow UC Berkeley alumnus, Steven Levitsky, he has done so from a perch at Harvard, and his focus has always been different places and times: Ziblatt is an expert on democracy in modern Europe, including the age of Hitle...
  • Melissa
    “How Democracies Die” is a clear-eyed and level-headed assessment of the potential threat to our democracy presented by the presidency of Donald J. Trump. This book is a welcome and noticeable departure from the more typical writing about Trump as it does not indulge in simply reacting to his transgressions or waste time questioning why the president behaves the way that he does. Rather the authors competently and methodically lay out a case ...
  • Melissa
    No matter what you think about US politics right now, I do think there is a resurgence in learning about the political process and what these people in office can and can't do or even what they should or shouldn't do (if not in legal terms). This book does a good job at explaining a bit of that from lessons in the past in terms of what is happening today. Unfortunately I've seen some people dismiss this book without even a cursory read because it...
  • Pam Boling
    This is definitely the most important book I've read thus far this year, and I recommend it for everyone regardless of political leaning. I'm sure it would be difficult for conservatives to tolerate; however, the authors present facts that cannot be disputed in such a way that they aren't lambasting the Republicans. Rather, they are presenting what I believe is an objective history of U.S. politics over the last century.They look at failed democr...
  • James
    Everyone should read this book. All voters, especially Democrats, should read it today. High school and college students should study parts of it for years to come. Read this book not because it is well written (it’s ok) nor because it offers the best answers (it doesn’t) nor because I agree with it (I don’t entirely), but because it is eye opening. Read it because Americans will see their government (and democracy in general) differently w...
  • Scott
    After hearing the authors on NPR and reading an op-ed, I ordered the book and read it in about half a day. The opening chapters are revealing, as they use their historical expertise on how democracies failed in Europe in the 1930's and Latin America in the 1960's and 70's to detail how elected officials subvert the system. They also discuss the nations where such attempts were thwarted and how.They discuss America's history with demagogues and ho...
  • Sean O'Hara
    Best horror novel of the 21st Century!But seriously, the only thing preventing this from being a five star book is that it's written to the present day. The authors often assume you've followed the ins and outs of politics for the last two years and don't need a primer on why Trump supporters chanted "Lock her up!" or what's the deal with Trump and Russia. Which is fine for those of us who read it in the next year, but it means somebody picking i...
  • Carlos Alberto Ledezma
    This book was quite disappointing. I was expecting a thorough analysis on how stable democracies turned into authoritarian regimes; in contrast, the book only does a quick overview of some modern dictatorships and then delves into the United States' democratic history. Finally, the book concludes with some possible solutions to the current political crisis in the US, but these solutions don't seem to be founded on what's written in the rest of th...