Book Review: The State We're In: Reflecting on Democracy's Troubles by Joanna Cook, Nicholas J. Long, and Henrietta L. Moore.

AuthorAntwi-Boasiako, Kwame Badu
PositionBook review

Cook, Joanna, Nicholas J. Long, and Henrietta L. Moore, eds. The State We're In: Reflecting on Democracy's Troubles. New York: Berghahn, 2016. viii + 220 pages. Hardcover, $95.00.

Societies are divided into the few who have power and the many who do not. This is true for all nations and forms of governments, including democracy. Theoretically, among the pillars of democracy are majority rule, equality before the law, government based upon consent of the governed, constitutional limits on government, and free and fair elections. In fact, democracy as a form of governance is a "system designed to respect the voices of all citizens" (p. 9). The authors of The State We're In: Reflecting on Democracy's Troubles portray democracy as the ideal and preferred form of government, but also present the concept as misunderstood and misused in its implementation by different nations.

In his article "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville postulated that there is a constant democratic revolution in our midst as "everybody sees it, but by no means everybody judges it the same way." This assertion reflects the theme of this book. Indeed, democracies as practiced in Peru, Kenya, Indonesia, and Europe illustrate how--despite the general acceptability of democratic principles--the implementation and practice varies from country to country.

The eight-chapter book is divided into two main parts: democracy in the developing world and democracy in the developed world. The introductory chapter discusses the theoretical legitimacy of democracy. It does not, however, explain in detail what powers must be shared and practiced, how the rules need to be organized, or which institutions must be secured. Additionally, although democracy is based on the concept of popular rule, the trouble with current democracy lies in its manifestation, that is, the ambiguities surrounding its interpretation and implementation. The introduction provides insight into the rest of the chapters noting the "multiplicity of the political forms that lay claim to being democracies" (p. 8).

Examining the breakdown of democracy in the developing world, the contributing authors use Peru, Kenya, and Indonesia to illustrate the lack of trust between politicians and electorates, which gives rise to widespread malaise among the citizens of these democratic republics. Thus, the ideal democratic concept contradicts its practice in these countries because the system tends to serve the interest of...

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