One of the many virtues of How Democracy Ends is Runciman’s insistence that talk of impending doom is almost certainly overblown ... Runciman is an inveterate contrarian who has no patience for the melodrama of the Resistance. Trump is not Hitler, and a fascist coup is not lurking around the corner. The true danger is much more banal ... If this is a crisis, it’s a midlife crisis. Democracy’s best days are behind it ... Yet people are still unsatisfied, and Runciman sees no plausible way to restore their lost faith ... the future holds the same fate that awaits most of us: death from old age ... Even if his vision of the future comes to pass, there’s something unsatisfying about Runciman’s refusal to speculate on what might be done to avoid the dreary scenario he conjures. He could be right that in the long run democracy is doomed. But as his Cambridge predecessor John Maynard Keynes noted, in the long run we are all dead. It would help to have a little more guidance in the meantime.
How Democracy Endsis not a doomsday warning but a clearly written thought experiment. But Mr. Runciman undersells the value of democracy. He rightly rejects what’s fashionably known as epistocracy—an updated version of mandarinism, or government by technocratic elite—as well as anarchism, which is more popular among young libertarians than you’d think. But his presentation of 21st-century authoritarianism is too rosy ... The problem arises, I think, from Mr. Runciman’s assumption that democracy’s chief strength is its ability to offer citizens 'dignity' rather than its capacity to assure them of that dignity’s legitimacy—and thus provide both freedom and stability. Life for citizens in a democracy doesn’t always feel dignified, but it’s hard to conclude that your government is illegitimate when your friends and neighbors put it there.
...provides a meandering exploration of 'the malaise of contemporary democracy' and identifies various possible means by which it might end ... The book examines several potential democracy enders: coups, the lurking disasters of climate change or nuclear war, and technology or corporations running amok. It also considers potential replacements for democracy: pragmatic authoritarianism, epistocracy—the distribution of power based on knowledge—and submission to artificial intelligence.