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Home Uncategorized Living in the End Times

Living in the End Times

John Fanning
The People Vs Democracy: Why our Freedom is In Danger and How to Save It, by Yascha Mounk, Harvard University Press, 328 pp, $29.95, ISBN: 978-0674976825 The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties, by Paul Collier, Allen Lane, 256 pp, £20, ISBN: 978-0241333884 Twenty years ago a former Belgian prime minister, Mark Eyskens, presented a paper to an international conference of university presidents warning them of the coming unprecedented level of disruption that would be caused by the information age. Before 9/11, the Iraq war, social media, the 2008 Great Recession and Trump and Brexit, he predicted that we were entering an age which would be a complete break from the past, adding: the past provides no examples, the present offers no guarantees, the future generates no confidence. It’s hard to believe that Mr Eyskens could have known how prescient he was being, but that’s how it has turned out as today’s media vie with each other in an orgy of apocalyptic editorials and comment. The only beneficiary seems to be the book trade, making an unexpected and welcome comeback from death by digital with a flood of doom-laden titles: New Dark Age, How Democracy Ends, How Democracies Die, The People Vs. Democracy, The Fate of the West, The Retreat of Western Liberalism, The Age of Anger, How Will Capitalism End?, PostCapitalism and Democracy on Trial. These titles make it clear we are living in extraordinary times and no one has managed to make complete sense of where we are, let alone where we might be heading. Two recent books, however, manage to illuminate different aspects of our predicament. Among the many uncertainties one thing is clear: democracy, which seemed unstoppable and triumphant in the 1990s, is in retreat. Yascha Mounk’s The People Vs Democracy (2018) is one of the most lucid accounts of how democracy is being undermined in the twenty-first century. Mounk, a political science lecturer at Harvard, has collected some disturbing survey results to make his case, indicating a growing lack of commitment to democracy among younger age groups in America, where only one third of millennials believe it is important to live in a democracy, compared to over two-thirds of older age cohorts. Similarly, in 1995, only around 6 per cent of Americans believed military rule would be a good thing whereas now the numbers have now grown to 17 per cent and among eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds, 25 per cent. Mounk suggests that part of the reason is…

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