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

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 28.3 (Fall 2014)

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

By Trygve Throntveit

The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present, David Runciman (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2013), 408 pp., $29.95 cloth.

"This is what happens when democracies try to take advantage of their historical advantages," writes David Runciman. "They mess up" (p. 273). In The Confidence Trap, Runciman draws on Alexis de Tocqueville's analysis of nineteenth-century American democracy to assess the strengths and diagnose the ills that have beset mature democratic societies from the early twentieth century to the present. The result is a clear and plausible articulation of democracy's central dilemma, paired with a far less definite treatment of its implications for the conduct of public affairs, either in the past or today.

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Democracy