Book Launch: The Life and Death of Democracy by Prof John Keane

Thu, 25 Jun 2009 18:45 in Discussion Forums

Where: Dialogue Society, London


  • Professor John Keane, University of Westminster
  • Dr Stephen Hopgood, SOAS
  • Dr Stephen Barber, University of London
  • Synopsis

    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.

    To read the review The Life and Death of Democracy in the Times, please click here

    To purchase a copy of The Life and Death of Democracy, please click here

    Biography of Professor John Keane

    Born in Australia and educated at the Universities of Adelaide, Toronto and Cambridge, John Keane is Professor of Politics at the University of Westminster and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. In 1989 he founded the Centre for the Study of Democracy. Among his many books are The Media and Democracy (1991), which has been translated into more than twenty-five languages and Democracy and Civil Society (1988; 1998). Among his most recent works are Violence and Democracy (2004), and Global Civil Society? (2003). In recent years, he has held the prestigious Karl Deutsch Professorship in Berlin and served as a Fellow of the influential London-based think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). He was recently awarded a Major Research Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust. His current research interests include the future of global governance; fear, violence and democracy; citizenship and civil society in Europe; the history of secularism; public life and freedom of communication in the digital age; eighteenth-century republicanism; the origins and future of representative government; and the philosophy and politics of Islam. A consultant to the United Nations and the Evolution of Global Values project at the University of Leiden and a recent member of the American-based Institutions of Democracy Commission, he has just completed a full-scale history of democracy - the first for over a century and the subject of a 3-part BBC Radio series to be transmitted in late 2010.

    Biography of Dr Stephen Hopgood

    Dr Stephen Hopgood is Senior Lecturer (associate professor) in International Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has been a Fellow in Global Security and Cooperation of the Social Science Research Council (2002-2004), and in 2007 his book Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International (Cornell University Press, 2006) was awarded the Best Book in Human Rights by the American Political Science Association. In December 2008 he was awarded a three-year Major Research Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust to research a project on the politics of embedding universal norms under the title ‘Empire of the International’. His other publications include ‘Saying No to Wal-Mart: Money and Morality in Professional Humanitarianism,’ in Michael Barnett and Thomas G Weiss (eds.) Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power, Ethics (Cornell University Press, 2008): 98-123, ‘Moral authority, modernity, and the politics of the sacred,’ European Journal of International Relations, 15 (2), 2009: 229-255, and ‘Reading the small print in global civil society: the inexorable hegemony of the liberal self,’ Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 29 (1), 2000: 1-25.

    Biography of Dr Stephen Barber

    Dr Stephen Barber is Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute and Visiting Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has spent 15 years working in the City of London's financial markets, most recently as Head of Research for the stockbroker Talos Securities. He has published three books on politics and political economy: Political Strategy; The City in Europe and the World; and The Geo-Politics of the City. His fourth book, Greed, edited with Alex Brassey, is due to be published by Macmillan in August.

    For more details and links to Prof. Keane’s publications, please click here

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