Democracy Books this Week
How do civil wars start? When will world leaders get serious about solving climate change?How do nations from India and Pakistan to North Korea and Iran develop unclear weapons technology? These are a few of the questions books from this week try to answer. It’s exciting to see so many books from scholars like Barbara Walter, Henry Sue, and Vipin Narang. But we also receive a new book from Al Sharpton called Righteous Troublemakers that sounds like the perfect graduation gift to any aspiring activist looking for inspiration. Finally, I have also included Migration and Democracy. Two of its authors, Abel Escribà-Folch and Joseph Wright, appeared in this week’s podcast. I’ve written a longer review of their book over here where I discuss why their research has important implications for the promotion of democracy.
How Civil Wars Start
Civil wars do more than produce political instability. They produce human rights violations and rarely lead to democracy. Far too often violent revolution leads to new forms of autocracy. So, Barbara Walter’s latest contribution to scholarship will garner significant interest among anyone interested in democracy. Of course, this is more than an analysis of civil wars. She hints that she offers recommendations to avoid conflicts altogether. So, this is a book directed to policymakers as well as political scientists.
Barbara F. Walter, How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them
The Pivotal Generation
Climate change is more than a challenge for the world. It is also a challenge for democracy. The two challenges will intersect, because their success depends upon one another. Democracy will not succeed unless it can solve resolve important collective action problems. At the same time, the solutions to climate change depend upon democratic governance. Democracy offers credibility to the solutions world leaders develop. Autocratic leadership may craft solutions, but fail to implement them beyond their borders. In my mind, this is what makes our historical moment so pivotal. So, many challenges have converged so political leaders cannot simply pick and choose the challenges they tackle. Henry Shue may not directly discuss democracy, but it exists in the background of any effort to resolve the climate crisis. So, it’s a topic those worried about democracy ought to consider in their studies.
Henry Shue, The Pivotal Generation: Why We Have a Moral Responsibility to Slow Climate Change Right Now
Seeking the Bomb
Over the past few years, the topic of nuclear proliferation has received renewed interest. Last year Serhii Plokhy published Nuclear Folly on the history of the Cuban missile crisis and The Economist raised the question, “Who Will Go Nuclear Next?” A few years earlier in 2018 Foreign Affairs devoted an entire issue to the question, “Do Nuclear Weapons Matter?” The subject remains relevant because many nonproliferation treaties have expired or lack enforcement between the United States and Russia, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons, and it appears Iran is likely to do so as well. So, Vipin Narang makes an important contribution on his book about the strategies nations take to develop nuclear weapons technology. It’s likely to offer insights for policymakers as well as academics as additional nations continue to develop nuclear weapons in the coming years. It’s a frightening thought, but one foreign policy analysts must anticipate.
Vipin Narang, Seeking the Bomb: Strategies of Nuclear Proliferation
I don’t want to pretend that Righteous Troublemakers introduces a new paradigm for political thought on social justice. Rather it delivers a series of stories about activists and others who made a difference for social justice. Nonetheless, it offers a break for those focused on dense tomes about political theory. Sharpton shares stories about historical figures like Thurgood Marshall and Rosa Parks to more recent ones like Gwen Carr. It’s a refreshing book for anyone who aspires to become a righteous troublemaker.
Migration and Democracy
This week’s podcast and review already examined Migration and Democracy so let me mention a few reasons why this book merits your attention. The authors reverse common assumptions about migration’s effects on the authoritarian countries they leave. However, this book argues migrant remittances loosen clientelistic ties to autocratic regimes. In the best circumstances, they even facilitate the transition from autocracy to democracy. Abel Escribà-Folch, Joseph Wright, and Covadonga Meseguer belong to a new tradition of political scholarship that considers how economic dependence affects political outcomes in unexpected ways. Their research has the potential to change how scholars think about democracy promotion and foreign aid.
Abel Escribà-Folch, Joseph Wright, and Covadonga Meseguer, Migration and Democracy: How Remittances Undermine Dictatorships