Book review: S. Levitsky & D. Ziblatt, How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future; D. Acemoglu & J.A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty and D. Roy Chowdhury & J. Keane, To Kill a Democracy: India’s Passage to Despotism

DOI10.1177/00195561211056546
Publication Date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
AuthorMahendra Prasad Singh
SubjectBook Reviews
678 Book Reviews
The author in the epilogue gives a ray of hope that democracy will win over
the current conflict. Chhattisgarh, famously known as the ‘rice bowl of Central
India’, is witnessing a civil war in the forests of Bastar. Bastar region is an
indicator of how transformation of an agrarian society into industrial society
invites systemic conflict plagued with aborted development agenda on the basis
of industrialization. The book in hand is an indispensable and invaluable source
of reference to understand the ‘agrarian crisis and rural unrest in Maoist-
influenced areas’. It is ‘a must-read’ by all those who would like to critically
understand the ‘political economy of neo-liberal development agenda in rural
adivasi India’.
Nayakara Veeresha
PhD Fellow, CPIGD
Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru
veeresha@isec.ac.in
S. Levitsky & D. Ziblatt, How Democracies Die: What History Reveals
About Our Future. New York: Penguin Random House UK, 2018, £ 9.99.
D. Acemoglu & J.A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power,
Prosperity and Poverty. London: Crown, 2013 (South Asian Edition),
`699.
D. Roy Chowdhury & J. Keane, To Kill a Democracy: India’s Passage to
Despotism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021, £20.00; $25.95.
DOI: 10.1177/00195561211056546
All the three books are important and topical publications. The first two are
exercises in comparative history and politics while the third one deals with
contemporary India dealing with the phase of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s
back-to-back majority and majoritarian governments elected in 2014 and 2019.
They leave the readers with ominous feelings but better understanding of
democratic travails in the world and in India. All three have important ideas for
reforms and recovery while, at the same time, the clarity that they are not
panaceas.
Levitsky and Ziblatt rue that democracy is now subverted more often not by an
outside military or civilian usurper but by an insider politician, for example,
Adolph Hitler, Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, Alberto Fujimori in Peru, and Hugo
Chavez in Venezuela, and others.
In each instance, elites believed the invitation to power would contain the outsider,
leading to a restoration of control by mainstream politicians. But their plans backfired
A lethal mix of ambition, fear, and miscalculation conspired to lead them to the same
fateful mistake: Willingly handing over the keys of power to an autocrat-in-the-making.
(p. 13)

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