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New Left Review 101, September-October 2016

Dylan Riley


The triumph of liberal democracy in the aftermath of the Cold War has soured with the strains of the Great Recession. [1] David Runciman, The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War i to the Present, Princeton University Press: Princeton 2015, £9.95, paperback 416 pp, 978 0 6911 6583 7 The wisdom of allowing the populace a say in national affairs is openly questioned by liberal opinion-makers, as electorates have relished the iconoclasm of outsider candidates or cast protest votes against the status quo. Meanwhile non-accountable bodies—security and intelligence forces, central banks and ratings agencies, media and info-tech oligarchs—have relentlessly extended their powers. Undermined by economic problems, the Western powers have also committed themselves to apparently permanent military intervention in the Middle East in the name of democracy itself, while struggling to manage the refugees fleeing their expanding war zone. Nor has liberal democracy much of a record in handling environmental problems, which have only worsened since its victory. China, the world’s second-largest economy, disdains liberal-democratic institutions altogether. In a longer-run perspective, how should these travails be assessed?

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Dylan Riley, ‘Politics as Theatre?’, NLR 101: £3

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