Democracy Books this Week
Maybe I’m late to the party to celebrate Amartya Sen’s memoir, Home in the World. It was released in the UK back in August, but took until this week to be published in the US. It’s coming out on audiobook as well next month, so it’s past time for us to celebrate the life of Amartya Sen. Other noteworthy books published this week include works on political theory, law, antiracism, and education. They all approach ideas about democracy from different directions. Some are very academic, while others are simply pleasant reads.
Don’t forget to catch this week’s podcast featuring Bilal Baloch. You can subscribe to the Democracy Paradox on Apple, Stitcher, Castbox or your favorite podcast app.
Home in the World
Amartya Sen is a Nobel Prize winning economist. Sen spearheaded the capabilities approach that focused on positive forms of freedom with an emphasis on economic and political modernization to improve well-being. He also emphasized the need to invest in human capital in the form of health care and education to produce long-term economic growth. His work spills over from economics into democracy, because he argued democracies emphasized human development. Moreover, he saw democracy as important for human well-being in its own right. Of course, his ideas came from his personal experience as much as his academic training. So, his memoir, Home in the World, is more than an autobiography. It offers context for the development of his ideas about politics, economics, and democracy.
Amartya Sen, Home in the World: A Memoir
The Democracy Manifesto
David Van Reybrouck popularized the idea of sortition as an alternative to elections, however democratic theorists have floated this idea and debated it for some time. Alison McCulloch and Wayne Waxman extend the debate with a forceful argument for sortition as a substitution for elections. For many this is a radical proposal, but it’s become mainstream among many theorists of the deliberative school of democracy. Let me repeat. Sortition is no longer a new idea. But this book offers an excellent introduction to explain why so many view it as an alternative approach for democracy.
Alison McCulloch and Wayne Waxman, The Democracy Manifesto: A Dialogue on Why Elections Need to be Replaced with Sortition
The Making of Constitutional Democracy
Some might find The Making of Constitutional Democracy a bit too formal for their taste, but probably not if they read this blog. Paolo Sandro ties together the role of law from its creation through its application to the ideals of constitutionalism and democracy. He systematically breaks down the role of law through a systematic approach that shows the breadth of the topic, while also expanding upon many of the elements necessary for constitutional democracy.
Paolo Sandro, The Making of Constitutional Democracy: From Creation to Application of Law
An Abolitionist’s Handbook
Ibram X. Kendi popularized a new genre of self-help literature about race and cultural tolerance with the popularity of his book How to be an Antiracist. Patrisse Cullors latest book, An Abolitionist’s Handbook, fits into this genre, but her ambitions extend beyond Kendi’s. It promises a guidebook for activism to bring about social change. In this manner, Cullors delivers more of a how-to book than a self-help manual. Either way it offers an entertaining read.
Patrisse Cullors, An Abolitionist’s Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World
What We Value
Democracy has always depended upon education. Indeed, the even older tradition of republicanism also leaned heavily upon the role of education as well. Yet over time education policy has become its own issue detached from efforts to further democratize liberal democracy. Lynn Pasquerella connects different priorities through the importance of a liberal education. It’s an important argument to help us refocus on our core values in our communities and in our nation.
Lynn Pasquerella, What We Value: Public Health, Social Justice, and Educating for Democracy