By the Democracy & Society Staff
The list of books from current and former Democracy and Governance students and faculty make for terrific gifts for anyone interested in electoral reform, international development, post-communism, and politics more broadly. We hope you enjoy, and have a lovely holiday season!!
David Jandura, Alumn (Class of 2011)
The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War
Craig Whitlock, (Simon and Schuster, 2021)
Afghanistan was the largest recipient of foreign assistance over a sustained twenty year period. Despite this, we all know how the intervention ended. While this book covers far more than DG and development equities, it is still an important read for understanding many of the issues plaguing our involvement, and should raise serious and difficult questions about the limitations of development interventions in some environments – especially against the refrain that “more money” or “more coordination” would lead to better results.
More Parties or No Parties: The Politics of Electoral Reform in America
Jack Santucci, (Oxford University Press, 2022)
In recent years, many American DG practitioners have started to focus their attention inward, given perceived trends in American democracy. One issue that has attracted significant attention is the perceived shortcomings of America’s electoral and election systems, which have long been subject to a “do as I say, not as I do” refrain, from technical advisors working abroad. In his book, DG alum Jack Santucci, provides an amazing history of electoral reform efforts in the United States, with a particular focus on the Progressive Era. He demonstrates how well-meaning reforms have led to worse, or at the very least, unsustainable outcomes, which risk being repeated by today’s generation of reform advocates.
Elton Skendaj, Director
Communism’s shadow: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Political Attitudes
Grigore Pop-Eleches and Joshua Tucker, (Princeton University Press, 2017).
The authors use survey data to find that people who lived through communism were socialized to be less supportive of democracy, less supportive of markets, more supportive of social welfare, yet not that supportive of gender equality. The more exposure to communist doctrines and education, the more post communist citizens experienced these legacies. The lived experience of communism therefore shaped citizens’ beliefs. Citizens who were only children when communism ended had less exposure, and therefore less likely to distrust markets and democracy. Generational change could erode the legacy’s impact among the citizens.
Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History
Lea Ypi (Norton 2022)
Fascinating story about the experience of a young girl in communist Albania, who grew up believing in the party, and found out her family were political enemies of the party. The book criticizes a notion of freedom that only looks at political freedoms to assemble and criticize the governments. If people do not have access to jobs or income to sustain a livelihood in crony capitalist Albania, they are not free to live their lives either.
Jeff Fischer, Senior Fellow
100% Democracy, the Case for Universal Voting
E.J. Dionne and Miles Rapaport, (The New Press, 2022)
This book explores an interesting approach to counter voter suppression and manipulation through universal civic duty voting. The authors address the concerns which such an initiative would invoke and made their case convincingly.
The enduring struggle: The history of the US Agency for International Development and America’s uneasy transformation of the world
JohnNorris, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021)
As USAID is a major funder and innovator of democracy and election assistance programming, understanding how the Agency evolved into this programming is good background to have in working with the Agency today.
Monitors and Meddler, How Foreign Actors Influence Local Trust in Elections
Sarah Sunn Bush and Lauren Prather, (Cambridge University Press, 2022).
The authors take an approach to this topic through a comparative examination of international election monitors and foreign malign meddlers to identify the impact of their activities on the perceptions and confidence in elections of those impacted by their actions.
Kate Kizer, Alumna (Class of 2018)
A Savage Order: How the World’s Deadliest Countries Can Forge a Path to Security
Rachel Kleinfeld, (Vintage, 2019)
For providing a blueprint for building sustainable peace in the face of endemic, ingrained political violence based on deep ethnographic research of some of the most violent societies today
Nathan Posner, (Class of 2024)
Raven Rock: The Story of the US Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die
Garrett Graff (Simon and Schuster, 2017)
The U.S. government spends billions of dollars a year on behind-the-scenes efforts to prepare for ensuring its survival if armageddon broke out. From the Presidential motorcade to hidden bunkers in the Appalachian mountains, Graff examines the history behind continuity of government and how it has evolved before, during, and after the Cold War with great writing. It is a fascinating look into one of our government’s highest, and least publicized, priorities.