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The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present

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The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Why do democracies keep lurching from success to failure? The current financial crisis is just the latest example of how things continue to go wrong, just when it looked like they were going right. In this wide-ranging, original, and compelling book, David Runciman tells the story of modern democracy through the history of moments of crisis, from the First World War to the economic crash of 2008.

A global history with a special focus on the United States, The Confidence Trap examines how democracy survived threats ranging from the Great Depression to the Cuban missile crisis, and from Watergate to the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It also looks at the confusion and uncertainty created by unexpected victories, from the defeat of German autocracy in 1918 to the defeat of communism in 1989. Throughout, the book pays close attention to the politicians and thinkers who grappled with these crises: from Woodrow Wilson, Nehru, and Adenauer to Fukuyama and Obama.

The Confidence Trap shows that democracies are good at recovering from emergencies but bad at avoiding them. The lesson democracies tend to learn from their mistakes is that they can survive them--and that no crisis is as bad as it seems. Breeding complacency rather than wisdom, crises lead to the dangerous belief that democracies can muddle through anything--a confidence trap that may lead to a crisis that is just too big to escape, if it hasn't already. The most serious challenges confronting democracy today are debt, the war on terror, the rise of China, and climate change. If democracy is to survive them, it must figure out a way to break the confidence trap.

Review:

"Winston Churchill famously stated that 'democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms,' and Runciman, professor of politics at Cambridge University (The Politics of Good Intentions), illustrates his agreement in this ingenious account of how free nations faced seven international crises from 1918 to 2008. Observers extolled the democracy's victory in WWI but despaired when the Treaty of Versailles seemed to refute the Allies' claim to moral leadership. By 1933, the depression and rise of fascism and communism convinced many that democracy was in a fatal crisis. Almost miraculously it triumphed again in WWII, but so did communism, and thinkers like Walter Lippmann, George Kennan, and Joseph Schumpeter worried, for varying reasons, that free nations could not compete. The astonishing collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 seemed to foretell a world indefinitely safe for democracy, a sentiment that evaporated in the face of terrorism, competition from prospering but undemocratic China and Russia, and financial meltdown in the West. Runciman concludes that democracy will probably survive, having made a delightfully stimulating, if counterintuitive case, that the unnerving tendency of democracies to stumble into crises is matched by their knack for getting out of them." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

"In this book, David Runciman emerges as the most original guide we have to democracy's global prospects in the twenty-first century."--Melissa Lane, Princeton University

"The Confidence Trap's engrossing analytical history illuminates democracy's deepening achievements and recurring crises during the charged past century. By incisively interpreting these moments of unsettled apprehension and by tracking patterns of coping and surviving, this rich, important book helps us understand, and perhaps even navigate, present anxieties about the capacity of democracies to grapple with the big issues of economics, geopolitics, and the environment."--Ira Katznelson, author of Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

"Rivetingly written for a wide audience, this is David Runciman's best and most original book to date--bold, clear, astonishingly well informed, and consistently excellent. His ecumenical curiosity is as engaging as it is disarming, pulling you into a history that is effortless to read and leaves you thinking about its insights long after you put it down."--Ian Shapiro, author of The Real World of Democratic Theory

"Imaginative and entirely original. I've not read anything remotely like it."--Alan Ryan, author of On Politics

Synopsis:

"Imaginative and entirely original. I've not read anything remotely like it."--Alan Ryan, author of On Politics

"Rivetingly written for a wide audience, this is David Runciman's best and most original book to date--bold, clear, astonishingly well informed, and consistently excellent. His ecumenical curiosity is as engaging as it is disarming, pulling you into a history that is effortless to read and leaves you thinking about its insights long after you put it down."--Ian Shapiro, author of The Real World of Democratic Theory

About the Author

David Runciman is professor of politics at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Trinity Hall. His books include "The Politics of Good Intentions" and "Political Hypocrisy" (both Princeton). He writes regularly about politics for the "London Review of Books".

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction: Tocqueville: Democracy and Crisis 1

Chapter 1 1918: False Dawn 35

Chapter 2 1933: Fear Itself 76

Chapter 3 1947: Trying Again 111

Chapter 4 1962: On the Brink 145

Chapter 5 1974: Crisis of Confidence 184

Chapter 6 1989: The End of History 225

Chapter 7 2008: Back to the Future 263

Epilogue The Confidence Trap 293

Acknowledgments 327

Notes 329

Bibliography 379

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691148687
Author:
Runciman, David
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Subject:
Democracy
Subject:
Politics - General
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
American history
Subject:
European History
Subject:
World History/Comparative History
Publication Date:
20131031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
408
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » Political Science
History and Social Science » US History » General
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » 20th Century
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
Reference » Science Reference » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » General

The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$29.95 In Stock
Product details 408 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691148687 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Winston Churchill famously stated that 'democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms,' and Runciman, professor of politics at Cambridge University (The Politics of Good Intentions), illustrates his agreement in this ingenious account of how free nations faced seven international crises from 1918 to 2008. Observers extolled the democracy's victory in WWI but despaired when the Treaty of Versailles seemed to refute the Allies' claim to moral leadership. By 1933, the depression and rise of fascism and communism convinced many that democracy was in a fatal crisis. Almost miraculously it triumphed again in WWII, but so did communism, and thinkers like Walter Lippmann, George Kennan, and Joseph Schumpeter worried, for varying reasons, that free nations could not compete. The astonishing collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 seemed to foretell a world indefinitely safe for democracy, a sentiment that evaporated in the face of terrorism, competition from prospering but undemocratic China and Russia, and financial meltdown in the West. Runciman concludes that democracy will probably survive, having made a delightfully stimulating, if counterintuitive case, that the unnerving tendency of democracies to stumble into crises is matched by their knack for getting out of them." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , "In this book, David Runciman emerges as the most original guide we have to democracy's global prospects in the twenty-first century."--Melissa Lane, Princeton University

"The Confidence Trap's engrossing analytical history illuminates democracy's deepening achievements and recurring crises during the charged past century. By incisively interpreting these moments of unsettled apprehension and by tracking patterns of coping and surviving, this rich, important book helps us understand, and perhaps even navigate, present anxieties about the capacity of democracies to grapple with the big issues of economics, geopolitics, and the environment."--Ira Katznelson, author of Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

"Rivetingly written for a wide audience, this is David Runciman's best and most original book to date--bold, clear, astonishingly well informed, and consistently excellent. His ecumenical curiosity is as engaging as it is disarming, pulling you into a history that is effortless to read and leaves you thinking about its insights long after you put it down."--Ian Shapiro, author of The Real World of Democratic Theory

"Imaginative and entirely original. I've not read anything remotely like it."--Alan Ryan, author of On Politics

"Synopsis" by , "Imaginative and entirely original. I've not read anything remotely like it."--Alan Ryan, author of On Politics

"Rivetingly written for a wide audience, this is David Runciman's best and most original book to date--bold, clear, astonishingly well informed, and consistently excellent. His ecumenical curiosity is as engaging as it is disarming, pulling you into a history that is effortless to read and leaves you thinking about its insights long after you put it down."--Ian Shapiro, author of The Real World of Democratic Theory

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