What Happens When Democracy Dies? Are We All Doomed?

In Singapore, we’re used to political stability, but in some countries around the world, we see democracies breaking down. In this climate, we never know what will happen next. That’s why we need to understand what went wrong, what could go wrong, and how it can be prevented. Here are some books that can help.

To learn from the past, read:

How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Viking, 2018

Cases of democracies falling into authoritarian regimes — like in Venezuela and Hungary — would definitely spur one to question what happened.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, draws on a wide range of historical examples, characterising dead democracies with the election of an authoritarian leader, the abuse of governmental power and the complete repression of opposition.

Source: Giphy

“History doesn’t repeat itself. But it rhymes. The promise of history, and the hope of this book, is that we can find the rhymes before it is too late.”

Get the book here: Physical Copy, eBook, Audiobook

To understand the present, read:

Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci

Yale University Press, 2017

Today’s protests are internet-fuelled, leaderless and quick to gain momentum. With examples such as the Occupy Movement and the Zapatista uprisings, Tufekci explains modern protests — how they form, how they operate, and their strengths and weaknesses.

Source: Giphy

By understanding the tools that protesters and governments use against each other, readers will be more aware of how leaders of various nations are switching gears to deal with new forms of protest.

“How do you think this will end?” I say that I do not know. In the mountains of Chiapas, I learned a Zapatista saying: “Preguntando caminamos.” It means “we walk while asking questions.”

Get the book here: Physical Copy, eBook

To prepare for the future, read:

The People vs Tech: How the Internet Is Killing Democracy (and How We Save It) by Jamie Bartlett

Dutton, 2018

Could our democracy be in danger without us even realising? Bartlett argues that democracy WILL be destroyed by technology.

Source: Giphy

He demonstrates this by listing 6 pillars that make democracy work and by showing how they are threatened by social media, big data, mobile technology and AI. Here are the pillars:

  • Active citizens
  • A shared culture
  • Free elections
  • Stakeholder equality
  • Competitive economy and civic freedom
  • Trust in authority

Before you panic, he gives suggestions for how democracy and each of us must change in order to survive the digital age.

Get the book here: eBook

Let us know if you have more book suggestions that may give tomorrow’s democracy some hope. ;)


All books featured are available via the NLB Mobile app or at our public libraries.


Text by
National Reading Movement
National Library Board

Public Libraries Singapore

Written by

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Medium Account for Public Libraries Singapore — book lists and book reviews, discovering programmes at the libraries and promoting a bookish lifestyle.

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