Democracy explains the rise of this form of government and how women and minorities struggled for and won democratic rights for themselves. In clear prose, author James Laxer relates the story of the replacement of Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by ostensibly democratic political systems. In some of these countries, he argues, democracy has flourished, while in others authoritarianism is on the rise. Showcasing examples from all over the world, the book examines the current status of ...
Democracy explains the rise of this form of government and how women and minorities struggled for and won democratic rights for themselves. In clear prose, author James Laxer relates the story of the replacement of Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by ostensibly democratic political systems. In some of these countries, he argues, democracy has flourished, while in others authoritarianism is on the rise. Showcasing examples from all over the world, the book examines the current status of democracy in both developed and developing nations. Throughout, Laxer demonstrates that democracy is about much more than the right to vote, warning readers that globalization and the widening gap between rich and poor threatens to weaken democracy and the vigor of democratic regimes — even in countries where it has been long established. Only sustainable environmental policies and basic economic fairness, says Laxer, offer hope for democracy’s survival.
This "Groundwork Guide" traces the spread of democracy from its roots in fifth Century B.C. Athens to threats it faces now, such as globalization and industrial manipulation. The rambles through history are interesting, but U.S. readers could find Laxer's viewpoint on democracy confusing and occasionally antithetical. For example, he states that the "privatization of state-owned companies and the deregulation of economic activity" over the past several decades is one of the reasons democracy is imperiled; however, some believe that the opposite is currently happening in the U.S. Many Americans view government take-over of businesses and regulation of earnings as threatening to democracy. More troubling are incorrect statements about U.S. history, such as the assertion that President Bill Clinton granted amnesty to Vietnam War draft dodgers in 1994. While Clinton used his last day in office in 2001 to grant an unprecedented 140 Presidential pardons, it was Jimmy Carter who pardoned the Vietnam draft dodgers on his first full day in office in 1977. There are several crimes of omission or inference, including failure to mention Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the chapter "Democracy and the Demise of the Soviet Union;" stating that "Israeli democracy applies only to Israelis," as if it should extend to non-citizens living outside the borders of the nation, including those whose mission is to destroy the only democratic nation in the Middle East; ignoring the role of the September eleventh terrorist attacks and other violence against Western countries in the decision to go to war against the government of Iraq; claiming that the "issue of inequality" between high-earners andlow-earners precipitated the global economic collapse of 2008 to the present without mentioning that the efforts of several democratic governments to engineer socio-economic equality are largely responsible for the crisis; and confusing the democratic principle of equality of opportunity with equality of outcome, one of several failed Communist principles. Reviewer: Heather N. Kolich
The latest volume in the Groundwork Guides series offers a fascinating and concise overview of democracy from ancient Greece and Rome through the American and French Revolutions and on through modern movements for democracy in the developing world. Laxer's premise is that "democracy is in peril today in the wealthy countries" because it's morphing into plutocracy, a system in which politics is unduly controlled by money. The future of democracy depends, as it always has, on the struggle to narrow the gap between the rich and poor and the struggles for education, health care, employment, a cleaner environment and containment of war. Though the prose is windy and wordy at times, it covers much ground and is always rooted in specific details and examples, with sidebars that add extra dimensions to the discussion. This will work best with a high-school audience already well versed in American and world history and ready for a treatment that makes compelling connections. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 14 & up)