Democracy & Its Discontents

The inevitability of republicanism as the answer to infinite governmental woes seemed clear. Yet the belief that the world abhors an ideological vacuum was mistaken.

Issue: Mar-Apr 2010

John Keane, The Life and Death of Democracy (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009), 992 pp., $35.00.

John Kampfner, Freedom for Sale: Why the World Is Trading Democracy for Security (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 304 pp., $27.95.

 

FEW CONTRIBUTIONS to The National Interest can have matched the impact of Francis Fukuyama's 1989 proclamation of "The End of History." In that trenchant essay he captured a historical moment and launched a stellar career. Rather less gratifying in the longer run, he also did much to set his stamp on America's national agenda abroad for the next decade and a half. His was a deft inversion of John Locke's distant vision: "in the beginning all the world was America." In the End, with the Cold War no more and the dream of socialism vanishing swiftly over the horizon, the world was at last ready to recognize that it had no other eligible destination or option but to do its faltering best to become America. It had to reconcile itself to embracing, on pain of inanition, chaos or barbarism, not America's distinctive culture and self-assurance or its widely envied levels of material comfort, but its hallowed form of government, and above all, its cherished and endlessly honed diagnosis of the special merits of that form.

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