By Matteo Laruffa, PhD candidate LUISS University

“Crisis of democracy”, “democracies in crisis”, “demise of democracy”, or even “democratic deconsolidation” – these phrases, along with many others, have become the focal points of countless political debates from political tabloids to the highest degree of academia. This shows that the issue is once again in vogue.

As with many phenomena in political science, ones relating to “democracies in crisis” have captured the imagination of a diverse group of scholars from Classical Athens to modern day. In the ancient world, Plato was among the first authors to discuss it, while only two centuries ago, Alexis de Tocqueville furthered the topic with a focus on the risks for representative democracies. In the Thirties with the first reverse wave, and in the Seventies with a massive decline of confidence in democratic institutions, there was significant growth of attention for this phenomenon. Today, political scientists are focusing their research to the crisis of democracy.

This post is the second in our Summer Reading Group series discussing recent books on the current state of American democracy.  

Richard Reeves. Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to Do About It. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution Press, 2017.

By Cabell Willis ‘16

Our summer book club continues to explore the social trends underlying the current climate of American democracy with a fresh look at the problem of inequality in Richard Reeves’ new book Dream Hoarders: How the Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in The Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What To Do About It. The book draws on and synthesizes insights from a wealth of contemporary and classic scholarship on inequality to challenge the prevailing assumption that the top “one percent” of the distribution is at fault for the highly unequal allocation of wealth and income in our society. Reeves instead faults the top quintile of the income distribution, contending that they are “hoarding” opportunities for their children, thus facilitating the perpetuation and reinforcement of wealth and privilege among those that already have it. As Reeves’ puts it in the early pages of his book,

By Jennifer Raymond Dresden, Associate Director of the Democracy & Governance Program

Richard V. Reeves.  Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That’s a Problem, and What to Do About It.  Brookings Institution Press. 2017

Our second installation of the Democracy and Governance Summer Reading Group takes on questions of class and inequality in the United States.  Over the next few weeks we’ll be reading Richard Reeves’ new book Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That’s a Problem, and What to Do About It.

By Javier Peña, Democracy & Governance M.A. Program alumnus

This post is the first in our Summer Reading Group series discussing recent books on the current state of American democracy.  

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Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Harper, 2016.

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One of the threats our republic faces today is the growing distance between so many of us. For a democratic republic to work, its citizens, with their elected representatives, must be able to share their beliefs and preferences, listen to one another, and then get on with the hard and necessary work of governing to advance the national interest. Yet it is becoming increasingly difficult, in no small part because we make it difficult, to truly listen to those on the other side.

By Evan Chiacchiaro, Master’s Candidate of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University

Political science suggests that the American political system may be approaching a crisis point. It’s time to pay attention.

It has been over 150 years since we as Americans have had to confront a true internal existential threat to the stability of American democracy. Since then, presidents have been impeached, they’ve been assassinated, they’ve died of natural causes while in office, and they’ve shattered existing term limit norms. In each case, the rules and institutions of the political system continued to function, and every four years an election was held and an executive elected. Recent trends and events, however, make it crystal clear that American democratic stability is under threat from three distinct but interrelated angles. To save it, Americans who care about our democracy must mount a full-throated defense.

By Jennifer Raymond Dresden, Associate Director of the Democracy & Governance Program

While classes are out for the summer and many of our students are excelling in internships around the world and contributing to research projects a bit closer to home, we here at the Democracy & Governance Program are still firing on all cylinders. To keep important conversations going over the summer and to keep everyone thinking about the fundamental issues of democracy, we are introducing our first-ever Democracy & Governance Summer Reading Group.

By Kate Kizer, second year student of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University and director of policy and advocacy at the Yemen Peace Project

The Trump administration’s Yemen policy during his first 100 days has worsened an already calamitous status quo. Given the precedents set by his predecessors, in which U.S. involvement was dominated by counterterrorism interests and largely uncritical support for an ally committing possible war crimes with U.S. sold weapons, Trump has hardly been primed to achieve an ideal solution.

By Manuel J. Ayulo, second year student of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University

Citing the philosopher W.B. Gallie, Collier and Levitsky remained us that democracy is “the appraisive political concept par excellence”.[1] They are right. In Latin America, democracy continues to be a contested concept. Although the vast majority of the countries are not considered authoritarian, that doesn’t imply that they share or value a homogenous concept of democracy.

By Sundar Ramanujam, alumni of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University

In the classic essay that he wrote on the challenges of transition theory for Philippe Schmitter & Guillermo O’Donnell’s Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, Przeworski presents a rational-choice driven framework to explain the mechanics of democracy [1].

By Dr. Daniel Brumberg, Director of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University 

(continues from part 2…)

What then is to be done? What can we, students and faculty in this country’s only full Masters program in Democracy and Governance Studies, do in the face of these challenges, and the potentially massive political change happening on our own doorstep? I honestly am not sure, but I would offer, at least to get the discussion started, a few ideas.