About the Book
In Arabic: نبذة عن الكتاب click here (pdf here)
In Finnish: Tietoa teoksesta here
In French: Sur le livre here
In Greek: Για το Βιβλίο here
In Italian: Sinossi del libro clicca qui
In Norwegian: Om denne boken here
In Portuguese: Sobre este livro here
In Spanish: Sobre el libro here
John Keane’s The Life and Death of Democracy will inspire and shock its readers. Presenting the first grand history of democracy for well over a century, it poses along the way some tough and timely questions: can we really be sure that democracy had its origins in ancient Greece? How did democratic ideals and institutions come to have the shape they do today? Given all the recent fanfare about democracy promotion, why are many people now gripped by the feeling that a bad moon is rising over all the world’s democracies? Do they indeed have a future? Or is perhaps democracy fated to join the poor dodo and the forests of Easter Island in the land of extinction?
The work of one of Britain’s leading political writers, a man whose work on democracy is of ‘world-wide importance’ (The Times), this is no mere antiquarian history. Stylishly written, this superb book confronts its readers with an entirely fresh and irreverent look at the past, present and future of democracy. It unearths the beginnings of such precious institutions and ideals as government by public assembly, votes for women, the secret ballot, trial by jury and press freedom. The Life and Death of Democracy explains how and why democracy spread in modern times to Latin America, Africa and Asia. It tracks the changing, hotly disputed meanings of democracy; retells the best jokes about it; and describes quite a few of the extraordinary characters, many of them long forgotten, who dedicated their lives to building or defending democracy. The book proposes that we are now living in a new age of ‘monitory democracy’, explains why it is potentially the best form of government on earth – and why democracies everywhere are sleepwalking their way into deep trouble.
Back Cover: ‘History is often said to be a catalogue of human sorrows, an unending story of bootlicking, a slaughterhouse of crimes. It is not always so. The mould of cruel servitude can be shattered, as happened 2600 years ago, when Greeks living on the south-eastern fringes of Europe laid claim to an invention that now ranks in historical importance with the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine and the cloning of stem cells. Born of resistance to tyranny, their claimed invention at first caused no great stir. Few spotted its novelty. Some condemned it for bringing chaos into the world. Nobody predicted its universal appeal …The invention was a potent form of wishful thinking that is still with us today: the Greeks called it dēmokratia.’
The Life and Death of Democracy provided the key source material for the opening timeline (2500 BCE to 1770 CE) featured at the new Museum of Australian Democracy. Located in the Old Parliament House, in the capital city of Canberra, the museum was officially opened on May 9th 2009 by the former Australian Prime Minister, the Hon R.J.L. Hawke AC. Images from the opening ceremony and further details of the collection can be found at http://moadoph.gov.au/
Advance quotes: ‘The Life and Death of Democracy is an unusual and extraordinary magnum opus by a notable scholar and author. It is unusual in tracing the history not just of ideas but of democratic institutions, and extraordinary in its range. John Keane’s work brings to life the story of democratic decision-making, representation and monitoring of power from Athens to Westminster and Washington. It is a masterpiece of historical writing and at the same time a major contribution to contemporary debate. This book will have a long and influential life.’
Ralf Dahrendorf, KBE, former Parliamentary Secretary of State in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Commissioner in the European Commission in Brussels
More quotes here
Comments on the cover by its designer Jem Butcher
'Initially I had 'The Life and Death of' bit and 'John Keane' running at right angles to 'Democracy' . Unfortunately it tended to read, "the Life and Death of John Keane". But the biggest problem was always how to illustrate the very involved, complex issue of 'Democracy' spanning a time frame from ancient Greece to the present day. The X 'marked the spot' so to say, and was no doubt only accepted by the publisher due to commercial success of books such as Jon Gray's ground breaking 'Everything is Illuminated'. Yes the bleed was important, getting the balance right between cropping too tight on it so that the viewer couldn't make it out as a cross, or no bleed, which looked far too obvious and consequently not sophisticated enough. The text being executed in the 'brush style' becomes an integral part of the design, as though someone had 'knocked-up' a protest banner the morning of a march.'
(click on the cover to enlarge the picture)
October 2009: Vida e Morte da Democracia, a Portuguese translation of the book, is published by Edições 70. Read more here.