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How Democracy Ends: Thinking the Unthinkable

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Democracy is feeling the strain everywhere. What might happen next? How bad could it get?

Worst-case scenarios for democracy – especially since the election of President Trump – usually hark back to how democracy has failed in the past. Do we risk going back to the 1930s? No – if democracy fails in the twenty-first century it will be in ways that are new and surprising. The decline of violence, the ageing of our societies and the rise of digital technology all mean that we need to look beyond the experiences of the twentieth century if we are to understand how democracy might end.

David Runciman is Professor of Politics and Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge. His recent books include Political Hypocrisy and The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis (both Princeton). His is next book is called How Democracy Ends (Profile). He writes regularly about politics for the London Review of Books and is the host of the popular weekly podcast Talking Politics.

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