Democracy on Trial

Democracy on Trial

by Jean Bethke Elshtain
     
 

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Even as Russia and the other former Soviet republics struggle to redefine themselves in democratic terms, our own democracy if faltering, not flourishing. We confront one another as aggrieved groups rather than as free citizens. Cynicism, boredom, apathy, despair, violence-these have become coin of the civic realm. They are dark signs of the times and a warning that…  See more details below

Overview

Even as Russia and the other former Soviet republics struggle to redefine themselves in democratic terms, our own democracy if faltering, not flourishing. We confront one another as aggrieved groups rather than as free citizens. Cynicism, boredom, apathy, despair, violence-these have become coin of the civic realm. They are dark signs of the times and a warning that democracy may not be up to the task of satisfying the yearnings it unleashes-yearnings for freedom, fairness, and equality. In this timely, thought-provoking book, one of America's leading political philosophers and public intellectuals questions whether democracy will prove sufficiently robust and resilient to survive the century. Beginning with a catalogue of our discontents, Jean Bethke Elshtain asks what has gone wrong and why. She draws on examples from America and other parts of the world as she explores the politics of race, ethnicity, and gender identity-controversial, and essential, political issues of our day. Insisting that there is much to cherish in our democratic traditions, she concludes that democracy involves a permanent clash between conservatism and progressive change. Elshtain distinguishes her own position from those of both the Left and the Right, demonstrating why she has been called one of our most interesting and independent civic thinkers. Responding to critics of democracy, ancient and modern, Elshtain urges us to have the courage of our most authentic democratic convictions. We need, she insists, both hope and a sense of reality. Writing her book for citizens, not experts, Elshtain aims to open up a dialogue and to move us beyond sterile sectarian disputes. Democracy on Trial will generate wide debate and controversy.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Wise, humane, and profoundly reflective.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``We are in danger of losing democractic civil society,'' warns Elshtain (Women and War), who teaches ethics at the University of Chicago, and the danger comes not from any foreign power but from ourselves. In five brief chapters that began as a lecture series, she offers stimulating but somewhat sketchy and discursive observations from a perspective unconstrained by ideology. Elshtain laments the fragmentation of family and community, criticizing both Left and Right for shortsighted solutions. She observes that leaving controversial decisions like abortion to the courts rather than public debate leads to ``a politics of resentment.'' The ``collapse of the personal into the political,'' she argues, provokes excesses in the way women claim victimization and gays claim government sanction. She deplores a multiculturalism that brings about identity politics rather than critical reflection. Elshtain believes in democracy's promise, citing examples from the American civil rights movement and dissidents in Argentina and Eastern Europe; we must engage such traditions, she concludes, to address our deficits and pursue our ideals. (Jan.)
Booknews
Elshtain (ethics, U. of Chicago) questions whether democracy will survive the century, drawing on examples from America and other countries as she explores the politics of race, ethnicity, and gender identity. She concludes that democracy involves a permanent clash between conservatism and progressive change. For general readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465016174
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
12/28/1995
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.02(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.44(d)

What People are saying about this

E. J. Dionne
"Elshtain's is a brilliant voice calling us away from cynicism and toward citizenship. In her hands democracy is not a tired word from a dusty civis book but a moral challenge, an achievable ideal, and a source of hope."
Robert Coles
"A powerful moral statement about the meaning of democracy."

Meet the Author

Jean Bethke Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Just War Against Terror and Democracy on Trial, among other books. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois.

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