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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, read by Fred Sanders.

Two Harvard professors explain the dangerous world we face today. Democracies can die with a coup d'état - or they can die slowly. This happens most deceptively when in piecemeal fashion, with the election of an authoritarian leader, the abuse of governmental power and the complete repression of opposition. All three steps are being taken around the world - not least with the election of Donald Trump - and we must all understand how we can stop them.

In How Democracies Die, Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt draw insightful lessons from across history - from the rule of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile to the quiet undermining of Turkey's constitutional system by President Recip Erdogan - to shine a light on regime breakdown across the 20th and 21st centuries. Notably they point to the dangers of an authoritarian leader faced with a major crisis.

Based on years of research, they present a deep understanding of how and why democracies die; an alarming analysis of how democracy is being subverted today in the US and beyond; and a guide for maintaining and repairing a threatened democracy, for governments, political parties and individuals. History doesn't repeat itself. But we can protect our democracy by learning its lessons before it's too late.

©2018 Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

An explicit book democracy


To know about future of Democracy this is a go to book. Loved it

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Book is good but I think It is too long

Could be shorter as writer is repeating the same idea for 1 hour.. More of trump history and How Trump can be an Authoritarian..

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Great read

loved it. democracy needs saving - even the most long-standing one. the perils to its existence comes from the very same people who form part of its highest echelon!!!
Very illuminating.

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A timely book

An excellent essay on the political situation in USA. Equally relevant for other democracies around the world, particularly those like India which are susceptible to autocracy.

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  • Jaydson Gomes
  • 10-01-20

A book about a frightening global pattern

For anyone who can see a frightening global pattern in politics and democracy in recent years, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future.
The authors, both political scientists and professors at Harvard, are accurate in presenting the obvious: There are structural flaws in our democracy.
The most critical point - and the one that impacted me the most - was the fact that undemocratic governments seized power through democracy.
It is an amazing paradox and throughout Steven and Daniel’s narrative it is clear that we are on the verge of collapse.

The book makes a great parallel with Trump in the US and the advancement of the far right in Europe and Latin America with the rise of Hitler and Mussolini in the 30s and also the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s.
The approach is interesting, showing that sometimes democracies are gradually eroded and sometimes this happen even unintentionally.
There are many cases where power becomes more important than the democratic process itself and this is a sign of the decline.

Authoritarianism seems to be the cornerstone of the fall of a democracy.
The authors make an analysis, looking at history, showing us how easy it is to identify authoritarians and their behaviors.
It is striking to see that in the US - where we were supposed to have the most solid of democracies - Trump followed the authoritarian imaginary handbook strictly.
Even the authors make it very clear that Trump was the only presidential candidate who broke all barriers and used every possible “technique” that characterizes a dictator.
Some of the characteristics are as follows: Attacking the media, refuting election results, threatening competing candidates, violence in speech.
Any resemblance to any other government? 🤔 (I’m from Brazil).

The foundations of democracy are very fragile.
Steven and Daniel stress that two basic norms must be followed for a democracy to work well: mutual toleration e forbearance.
Mutual toleration means you should accept that a political opponent is legitimate. It is accepting that rivals are also loyal citizens.
Forbearance is the act of not exercising a certain legal power, and this may be more difficult. Imagine that in the US the president has the power to pardon any crime at any time.

The conclusion is that Trump is not the problem but the symptom. The problem is much deeper.

While reading “How Democracies Die” was daunting, it was also very rewarding.
The analysis, counterpoints and comparisons with history made me reflect a lot on the current moment we are living in Brazil.
Democracy may be broken at some parts and there will always be those who will try to bring it down for good, but an even more democratic and fair future is possible.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-08-18

insightful

Thoroughly insightful on the deliberate tear down of democratic systems of governments... historical and current approaches.

1 person found this helpful

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  • John Adams
  • 09-04-19

Failure to take into account US hegemony when discussing Latin American democratic failure.

Very much written from the standpoint of the US model, and its examples of failure of Latin America democracy fails miserably to acknowledge covert US undermining of democratic institutions in the US sphere of influence.
The authoritarian backlash in these countries is as a result of US propaganda and economic warfare directed at governments that want to rid themselves of the US stranglehold of their economy. Suggest you read Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival for a balanced world view. The US definition of a dictator is any president that doesn’t let US CEO’s run their country.

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  • Marjori Pomarole
  • 17-10-18

Essential reading on this day and age.

Great study of the american state of democracy while offering enough studies of other countries outside the western hemisphere.

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  • Alex
  • 02-02-21

Fascinating, timely

Listening to this after 1/6 — their analysis was apt and timely. But (hopefully) American democratic norms are also proving more resilient than their worst scenarios. A very illuminating read.

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  • Francis
  • 24-01-21

Most enlightening and prophetic .

I am British and had little knowlege of the American political system. This book was enlightning, riveting and prohetic. Written in 2018 there are three possible outcomes given for the 2020 election...


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  • Marlene
  • 26-12-20

Excellent angle into democracy but more suitable title is: the racial challenge to American bipartisan democracy

American democracy has been in crisis, no doubt. But the authors identified why and discussed it as a process. It is less about how a system itself is uniquely good or bad but how people have worked with it, perfectionised it, or destroyed it. I learned a great deal from this outstanding book. However, cutting through all the detailed analyses, I find the hidden thread though the entire narration is misguidedly placed on democracy, but the fact that neither of these two main political parties really paid attention to the diversified American population- demo- but have focused on doing -cracy- against each other. Simply put, the failing democracy wasn’t its structure being destabilised but the politics do not reflect the changing demographics and their equal needs. Overall, it’s an excellent book but I would like to read more on the core issue: race, racism, ethnic assimilation and politicisation of them as a challenge to bipartisan democracy.

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  • SFM
  • 01-12-20

How American Democracy Dies

The authors have a masterful understanding of international politics, and specifically, democracies that have slid into authoritarianism. Wide ranging examples are used from across the world to contextualise all the points that are made. Yet the book is concise and doesn't get bogged down in the details, as others might. The only slight criticism, which isn't really a criticism, is that the book is very American focused, so be aware of that going in. A fascinating read in light of the results and reaction to the 2020 US election. Chapter 10 was the best, describing how best to move forward positively to protect democracy.

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  • DeltaAlphaXray
  • 03-11-20

Where we've gone wrong

A deeply thought-provoking analysis of what's going wrong in western democracies. Highly Recommended and I urge everyone to listen or get this book.

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  • Axel Schultz
  • 05-07-20

thought provoking

a very informative book with a lot of good examples.
I hope that many people will read and reflect on it.

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  • Adriana Quintero Grijalba
  • 12-09-19

Useful background to what lead to Trump in USA

Useful, though I agree with the Guardian review that it falls short. It is helpful for US background, but the analysis of other countries strikes more as adapting all previous Autocrats, to Trump traits. Seems to lack context and real insight in some overviews of Latin America.

Poorly edited in parts, seems to have been done in a rush.

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  • Urquiza K
  • 02-09-18

Don't take democracy for granted

The truth about democracy is that even in America it can fail. This book offers a very complete historical overview with much attention to interesting and relevant details.