Every week new books on democracy get published. Some literally change how scholars think about democracy, while others rehash ongoing debates. A few books do not discuss democracy, but have relevance for anybody seriously looking to understand democracy.
This list covers 5 new books on democracy. I’ve only read one so far. In other words, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s a list of the books worth keeping an eye on. Some I plan to read. One I have already read and featured on the podcast. Every week I plan to feature another five books. Hopefully, it will inspire others to learn more about democracy.
Time for Socialism: Dispatches from a World on Fire, 2016-2021 by Thomas Piketty
Thomas Piketty is an economist rather than a political scientist, however his recent work has focused less on economics than politics. His more recent major work, Capital and Ideology, represented a shift in his work towards history and political science. A forthcoming edited volume, Political Cleavages and Social Inequalities, explicitly focuses on democracies. I guess this is my way of justifying the inclusion of Piketty’s recent works on this list.
Many already know Piketty from the enormous page counts of his past books. Less ambitious readers will find this is a more manageable read. It’s just 360 pages and only 8 hours as an audiobook. It’s also likely less dense than some of his other works, because its a compilation of columns from Le Monde. So, it’s likely to focus less on theory and more on recent events of the past few years. Still, it’s academic enough for the academic press at Yale to publish it.
Democracy has a complicated relationship with diversity. Deliberative democratic theory does look to add diversity into democratic decision making. However, older democratic schools emphasized the importance of homogeneity for democratic governance. Russell Jacoby does not appear to focus on democracy per se, however it does touch on some of the challenges democracies face as they look to embrace diversity.
Jacoby is a professor of history at UCLA. Some readers will likely already recognize his name from past works. It’s likely one of the more readable and less academic selections in this list, but it still looks serious enough to turn up in the footnotes of serious academic journals.
Russell Jacoby, On Diversity: The Eclipse of the Individual in a Global Era
Political Dissent and Democratic Remittances
In this volume from Routledge, Joanna Fomina uses the idea of remittances to apply to political communications. Remittances typically refer to the money immigrants send home to relatives. However, Fomina now uses the term to refer to the political ideas political dissidents develop in exile.
Joanna Fomina is a widely respected voice writing on Post-Soviet politics. Her past work has been found in the Journal of Democracy and the book Democracies Divided edited by Thomas Carothers and Andrew O’Donohue. So, this is worth a look for those interested in this topic.
This is not really a new work. Svend-Erik Skanning published it in 2017 in what was likely Danish. Some will overlook this translation due to limited marketing. However, it will likely catch the attention of a small group of influential scholars who are “in the know.”
Svend-Erik Skaaning’s recent work has focused on the interwar period. His work on this period is interesting, because it approaches it as a political scientist rather than as an historian. A past interview with him on the podcast is included here.
Svend-Erik Skaaning, Democracy (Reflections)
Democracy and Executive Power: Policymaking Accountability in the US, the UK, Germany, and France by Susan Rose-Ackerman
This week’s podcast focuses on Susan Rose-Ackerman’s latest work Democracy and Executive Power. I have already written a review here. You can also check out the podcast below.