[Miller] demonstrates a sobriety and clear-sightedness when tackling the difficult dilemmas of tactics and social change...The strength of this book lies not in its sometimes convoluted memoir nor in its occasionally boilerplate prose but rather in the exquisite portraits it paints of characters...while the book peters out with his hand-wringing on the failures of the protest movement Occupy Wall Street, Can Democracy Work? offers insightful context on how our own body politic will survive these turbulent times.
[A] searching and somewhat sprawling book...sometimes distracting bits of memoir...[Miller] hopes for the development of 'new ways' to restore democratic systems and people’s faith in them, but doesn’t spell out what those might be.
James Miller...offers an attractively broad and accessible account of democracy from the Greeks to the present ... America’s current plight spurs Miller (drawing on F. Scott Fitzgerald) to some passionate and anguished prose ... Anyone reading...particularly in the current grim political moment, will come away convinced of the fragile nature of the ideas underlying rights-based liberal democracy.
Running throughout Can Democracy Work? are personal asides from Miller about his educational development from childhood to college and beyond, which some readers may find distracting. As a fellow, if somewhat younger, Boomer, I found them engaging as a kind of autoethnography of Miller's evolution from a '60s-era campus radical and card-carrying member of Students for a Democratic Society to tenured professor who, wistfully perhaps, continues to hold out hope for the democratic impulse, if in far more measured form.
[A] smart, tremendously readable history...[Miller] doesn’t offer easy answers, but his analysis encourages readers to ask important questions. Both challenging and accessible, this title is highly recommended.