Arresting reading that identifies obstacles and dangers to democracy, many at the highest levels of government.

HOW CIVIL WARS START

AND HOW TO STOP THEM

The idea that a second American civil war is brewing is not alarmist hyperbole.

“We are no longer the world’s oldest continuous democracy,” writes Walter, a professor of international relations who has written multiple books about the mechanics of civil war. Instead, the U.S. is now an “anocracy,” a democracy on the road to becoming an autocracy. Chalk much of that decline up to Trump, of course, and those who abetted his efforts to establish an autocracy and preserve it by means of a coup. The image that should be brought to mind is not of columns of blue- and gray-clad soldiers meeting on battlefields; instead, it lies in the scattered rubble of the federal building in Oklahoma City and the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Walter locates similar circumstances in Ukraine and Myanmar, among other places where “elected leaders—many of whom are quite popular—start to ignore the guardrails that protect their democracies.” Even though the number of democratic nations has grown markedly in the last century, the path to getting there is perilous, since entrenched power interests will always resist sharing their power. Another element of danger to popular rule is technological. “It’s not likely to be a coincidence,” writes the author, “that the global shift away from democracy has tracked so closely with the advent of the internet, the introduction of the iPhone, and the widespread use of social media.” Amplifying radicalism and rewarding attack, such media undermine public trust and reinforce long-standing resentments, a critical component in an antinomian environment in which right-wingers “choose the strategy of the weak: guerrilla warfare and terrorism.” Walter offers a few solutions: eliminating the Electoral College, reforming the Senate, and banning radical expression and disinformation campaigns on social media, for “curbing the dissemination of hate and disinformation would greatly reduce the risk of civil war.”

Arresting reading that identifies obstacles and dangers to democracy, many at the highest levels of government.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-13778-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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