In How Democracy Ends, David Runciman argues that we are trapped in outdated twentieth-century ideas of democratic failure. We need new ways of thinking the unthinkable-a twenty-first-century vision of the end of democracy, and whether its collapse might allow us to move forward to something better.
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.