One of our most essential political thinkers offers a vital account of democracy in the twenty-first centuryAfter the acrimony of Brexit, the shock of Trump, and the continued pull of Putin and Xi it seems that democracy is in a state of decay. And as governments around the world struggle to combat the coronavirus - often adopting draconian measures as a response - there is a sense, a panic, that democracy' s decline may be terminal. But how many of us are certain about what democracy actually is? Acclaimed political philosopher Jan-Werner M ller lucidly argues that in order for us to understand the true risks of our current moment, we must first establish an understanding of first principles. What is essential for democracy to flourish? How can we defend it without forever distorting its DNA? In this elegant volume, he explains how democracy is founded not just on liberty and equality, but also on uncertainty. Drawing on history, art and examples from around the globe, he shows that we need to re-invigorate political parties and free media, the institutions that have been essential for democracy' s success ever since the nineteenth century. Challenging conventional wisdom, M ller suggests concretely how democracy' s crucial institutions could be renovated, re-empowering citizens while also preserving a place for professionals such as journalists and judges. Taking on many of the most difficult political questions we face, this book is a vital rethinking of what democracy can mean in an age of big data, curated news feeds, collapsing parties and social alienation - and how we can reinvent our democratic social contract.
With characteristic brio and intellectual resourcefulness, Jan-Werner Muller invites us to rethink our fundamental political notion. He not only defuses much apocalyptic talk about the decay of democracy in this salutary book; he alerts us to its undiminished appeal and untested possibilities -- Pankaj Mishra Erudite and urbane, but never condescending or ponderous, Jan-Werner Muller has been the greatest theoretician of what is happening to democracy in our time. Saving democracy, he proposes, requires knowing what it is first, and attending to its infrastructure. Never complacent, and never despairing, this book survives the wreckage of prognostications of democracy' s death and doom in the populist era -- Samuel Moyn Democracy Rules captures the essence of our political moment. It clarifies the fundamental features of modern democracy and populism - following its arguments from the US to India. It is engaging and engaged, without ever being partisan. It is based on deep academic learning, but its arguments are clear, principled, and accessible. It makes a profound moral case that should matter to all our politicians and citizens today. This is political thought at its best -- Rory Stewart A superb work of democratic theory, passionately argued and elegantly written -- Ivan Krastev In this brilliant book, Jan-Werner Muller imagines a democratic politics that is fluid, creative, messy, and dynamic in defining who we are as a people and offering a path forward -- Ro Khanna Few people are as well-equipped as Jan-Werner Muller to assess today' s heated debates about democracy with a judiciousness deeply informed by history, international politics and social science. With unerring realism he examines the critical conditions necessary for democracies to function, reminding us of the essential role played by intermediary institutions such parties, the idea of the loyal opposition, and the free press. This realism is at the heart of his fundamental prescription; while we may not have grounds for optimism, we must find a sound basis for hope -- Tamsin Shaw
Jan-Werner M ller is Professor of Politics at Princeton University and the author of several books, most recently the critically acclaimed What Is Populism? He contributes regularly to London Review of Books, the Guardian, and the New York Review of Books.