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The shortest history of democracy : 4,000 years of self-government - a retelling for our times
2022
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"The complete history of democracy, its champions, and its detractors-from the assemblies of ancient Mesopotamia to present perils"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

The full chronological sweep of democracy, from the assemblies of ancient Mesopotamia and Athens to present perils around the globe. The Shortest History books deliver thousands of years of history in one riveting, fast-paced read.

This compact history unspools the tumultuous global story that began with democracy’s radical core idea: We can collaborate, as equals, to determine our own futures. Acclaimed political thinker John Keane traces how this concept emerged and evolved, from the earliest “assembly democracies” in Syria-Mesopotamia to European-style “electoral democracy” and to our uncertain present. 

Today, thanks to our always-on communication channels, governments answer not only to voters on Election Day but to intense scrutiny every day. This is “monitory democracy”—in Keane’s view, the most complex and vibrant model yet—but it’s not invulnerable. Monitory democracy comes with its own pathologies, and the new despotism wields powerful warning systems, from social media to election monitoring, against democracy itself. 

At this urgent moment, when despots in countries such as China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia reject the promises of democratic power-sharing, Keane mounts a bold defense of a precious global ideal.

- (Grand Central Pub)

Renowned political theorist John Keane traces the origins of democracy, from assembly democracy in Syria-Mesopotamia and Athens to European-inspired electoral democracy and the birth of representative government to our current age of media-driven democracy, highlighting democracy’s strengths and vulnerabilities for concerned citizens everywhere. - (Grand Central Pub)

From The Shortest History series comes the complete history of democracy, its champions, and its detractors—from the assemblies of ancient Mesopotamia to present perils

This tumultuous global story begins with democracy’s radical core idea: We can collaborate, as equals, to determine our own lives and futures. John Keane traces how this concept emerged and evolved, from the earliest “assembly democracies” to European-style electoral democracy to our present system of “monitory democracy.” Today, governments answer not only to voters on Election Day, but to intense public scrutiny (monitoring) every day. Keane calls this media- and communication-driven system “the most complex and vibrant form of democracy yet”—but it is not invulnerable.

We live in an age of political and environmental crisis, when despots in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere reject the promises of power-sharing. At this urgent moment, Keane’s book mounts a new defense of a precious global ideal. - (Workman Press.)

Author Biography

John Keane is currently Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and the WZB (Berlin). He is the author of many acclaimed books, most recently The New Despotism (2020) and To Kill A Democracy: India’s Passage To Despotism (2021, with Debasish Roy Chowdhury).
- (Grand Central Pub)

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Reviews Via Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Keane (The New Despotism), a professor of politics at the University of Sydney, delivers a concise and informative history of democracy "as an unending process of humbling unconstrained power." Beginning in 2500 BCE with Syria-Mesopotamia, Keane organizes his history of democracy into three stages. "Assembly Democracy," in which people gathered to debate public policies, was found in ancient Greece, as well as in the Levant and on the Indian subcontinent. "Electoral Democracy," where representatives were chosen to make laws, came to prominence in the Atlantic world in the 18th and 19th centuries. "Monitory Democracy" developed after WWII and is characterized "by the rapid growth of many new kinds of extra-parliamentary, power-scrutinizing mechanisms" that monitor elections, review budgets, and otherwise seek to hold government officials accountable. According to Keane, this third stage, the "most complex and vibrant form of democracy yet," is under threat from contemporary "despots" including Russia's Vladimir Putin, as well as from "massive inequalities of opportunity and wealth" in the U.S. and other Western countries. Though Keane's history lessons come with a progressive slant, he packs far-flung details into a brisk and accessible narrative. This is a provocative and enlightening survey of democracy's ever-shifting nature. (Sept.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

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