THE DECLINE AND RISE OF DEMOCRACY

A GLOBAL HISTORY FROM ANTIQUITY TO TODAY

A carefully researched and argued study of democracy as an evolving, and anciently rooted, means of political organization.

The claims of exceptionalists to the contrary, democracy is not a Western invention—nor its definitive form of government.

The received wisdom, writes Stasavage, a professor of politics at NYU, is that the Greeks bequeathed both the word and the institution of democracy before it faded away, to be reborn more than a millennium after with the Magna Carta and the republics of medieval Italy. “One problem with this story,” he writes, “is that when Europeans began conquering peoples on other continents, they sometimes found that local people had political institutions that were more democratic than what they knew in their home countries.” The French missionaries who explored what is now Canada, for example, discovered that women had political rights in a system with a broad distribution of power. In much of Europe at the same time, writes the author, democracy flourished largely in places where local rulers were too weak to control the state—one gauge being the rulers’ knowledge of local economies and their subsequent failure to collect tax revenue based on good information. Autocratic governments, by contrast, tended to know about such things as gross domestic product, collecting significantly more revenue in the bargain. Along the way, Stasavage looks into such matters as whether a society marked by inequality is more inclined to autocracy than democracy, since “have-nots may…be more susceptible to the appeals of demagogues.” It’s a point well worth pondering. In the end, notes the author, democracy isn’t inevitable, but it is and has been so widespread among societies around the world that it appears to “come naturally to humans.” Modern democracy has evolved in complex ways, he adds, with the system of checks and balances being an example of a departure from the powers of the Athenians, eventually allowing the disenfranchised “a powerful argument for demanding the same rights as others.”

A carefully researched and argued study of democracy as an evolving, and anciently rooted, means of political organization.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-691-17746-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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