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The Spirit of Democracy

The Spirit of Democracy by Larry Diamond is a very readable analysis of the growth and deficiencies of democratic governments around the world. In 1974, only 25% chose their governments in free elections. By the mid-1980s, two of every five states were democratic. By the mid-1990s, the Berlin Wall had collapsed and three of five states were democratic. Further, Diamond notes, democracy had become a zeitgeist, a spirit of the time. It had also shown itself capable of becoming the world order.

Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and co-editor of the Journal of Democracy. In this book, he examines the nature and quality of democracies and finds both conflicts in cultural values and deficiencies in practice that limit the growth and spread of democracy. Without addressing these, democracy will be less secure in the countries where it is established and it is less likely to spread.

One concern is a conflict in values. Cultural values in the West include individualism, freedom, and equality which favor democracy. In contrast, those in the East are order, family, and country. An authoritarian government nurtures dependency and offers a sense of security that is lacking in a democracy that values individualism and self-reliance. How can democratic government address this difference?

The next concern is the more headline grabbing deficiencies and the ways in which these countries need to improve in order to become fully democratic. Some of the major deficiencies include the poorly educated making self-defeating choices and corruption as a social expectation. Diamond analyzes these in detail and this is where the reader will find a treasure trove of information and ideas for further research and analysis because everyone could be addressed by applying sociocratic principles.

This is an interesting book for those who are interested in international affairs and those who are looking for good research topics. Endenburg found that people needed the democratic experience before they could operate sociocratically, so democracy is an important topic for sociocracy.

The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World by Larry Diamond. NY: Henry Holt, 2008. Bibliographic notes, index. The appendix includes charts of information from Freedom House and the Human Development Index that present international statistics on various measures of democratization of governments.At AmazonThe Spirit of Democracy