Ukraine’s Revolt, Russia’s Revenge and Other Democracy Books this Week


As the world watches in horror at unprovoked Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, many readers will look for books to offer background or explanations for the conflict. Fortunately, many new books offer insights for those with questions about the conflict. Christopher Smith offers an account of the origins of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine from his experiences as a diplomat between 2012 and 2014. His new book is called Ukraine’s Revolt, Russia’s Revenge. However, Rochelle DuFord offers a work of philosophy that has extraordinary relevance for this era and Brett Ashley Leeds and Michaela Mattes examine how foreign policies change in democracies. Neither book touches on Ukraine, but both discuss questions many of us have on our minds.

Make sure to listen to this week’s podcast featuring Moisés Naím. It’s a timely conversation on autocracy in the 21st Century. You can also support the podcast by making a monthly contribution at Patreon to access bonus interviews and other content.
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Ukraine’s Revolt, Russia’s Revenge

Ukraine's Revolt

The world’s attention remains focused on Ukraine, so it’s only fitting to learn about where the conflict began. Christopher Smith was a diplomat based in Ukraine during the Revolution of Dignity, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the outbreak of conflict in the Donbas region. The War in Ukraine is really just an escalation of hostilities begun in 2014. Smith offers a timely account to understand the earliest origins of the war. In many ways it is reminiscent of Michael McFaul’s From Cold War to Hot Peace. However, Smith’s focus on Ukraine takes a quite different perspective. It’s likely to become a widely read book as intellectuals and academics look to play catchup on this region of the world.

Christopher M. Smith, Ukraine’s Revolt, Russia’s Revenge

Solidarity in Conflict

Solidarity in Conflict

Rochelle DuFord is a philosopher so her ideas are complex and nuanced. However, the theme of her book speaks to the particular issues of our times. In many ways, the War in Ukraine is already a global conflict. Democracies find it necessary to provide a unified front against Russia’s aggression. Indeed, democracies find they must find solidarity both within and without. Alliances like NATO have become strengthened, while political polarization has been reduced. None of this is what DuFord intended to discuss when she wrote her book. Still, it tackles a topic many politicians and citizens will have on their mind as they work to show solidarity in their words and deeds. Philosophy has long offered answers for complex questions during times of difficulty. DuFord’s latest book may offer the larger picture ideas that speak to our times.

Rochelle DuFord, Solidarity in Conflict: A Democratic Theory

Autonomy and Democratic Governance in Northeast India

Autonomy and Democratic Governance in Northeast India

Last week Suman Nath published a new book on West Bengal. This week Routledge publishes another volume on local governance in India. It’s an important subject, because India’s government is highly decentralized. This work is an edited volume so it includes chapters focused on overlooked states and territories. India is the world’s largest democracy yet few scholars of democracy other than specialists understand the political dynamics in its individual states. Hopefully, this volume can provide some clarity for those who want to understand India’s political structure better.

M. Amarjeet Singh (ed.), Autonomy and Democratic Governance in Northeast India

The Government Party

The Government Party

The dominance of a single political party in democratic regimes raises many questions about the nature of democracy. Sometimes a single political party wins overwhelming victories due to unfair or archaic election rules. The United States has found its Congressional districts have become uncompetitive as both parties have manipulated congressional district boundaries. However, political polarization at the national level has led to overwhelming political majorities in many statehouses for both parties across the country. R. Kenneth Carty examines the role of the “government party.” He considers how political parties behave when their status in power is largely unchallenged. This book goes on sale in some markets this week, but looks like it is unavailable in the United States until late April. 

R. Kenneth Carty, The Government Party: Political Dominance in Democracy

Domestic Interests, Democracy, and Foreign Policy Change

Domestic Interests, Democracy, and Foreign Policy Change

International relations is on the mind of anyone with an interest in politics at this moment. The Russian Invasion of Ukraine raises many important questions for the foreign policies of many democratic nations. People will rightly ask whether any involvement is in their country’s national interest. Most democratic nations have imposed sanctions on Russia and even provided arms to Ukraine. However, India has remained hesitant to break ties with Russia. Brett Ashley Leeds and Michaela Mattes offer some insights into why different countries approach their foreign policy differently and more importantly why their approach changes over time. It’s a remarkably relevant text for a world in a moment of crisis and transformation in its approach to international relations.

Brett Ashley Leeds and Michaela Mattes, Domestic Interests, Democracy, and Foreign Policy Change

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