Review: Great experiment by Yasha Mounck

In contrast to economics, psychology and biology, there are very few intelligent popular political science books. Yasha Maunker The Great Experiment: Why Democracies Are Separated and How They Can Endure This is a valuable addition to the Slim Library. It is particularly important that such books shed light on contemporary threats to democracy – for example, in another popular political science book, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Giblatt. How democracy dies. We are in an age where, after democratization has flourished, democratic disintegration is not only established in recent times, and therefore probably threatens the weak, democracy, and even long-established democracies like the United States.

And when Maunk draws his examples from around the world and throughout history, his main target audience is clearly America.

The overall focus is on ethnically diverse democracies. Comparatively homogenous democracies have improved, as have some diverse undemocratic empires. In each case, the main issue was that there was no particular reason for any group to fear that a disliked out-group would control and oppress it. And some diverse democracies – like the United States – continue to forge a version of homosexuality by oppressing disaffected ethnic subgroups.

But a highly ethnically diverse democracy with true equality did not yet exist. But a number of countries, from the United States to Britain to Sweden to India, are at different stages to manage this new political entity. This is a great test, and Maunk sees three possible outcomes: undemocratic domination of the most politically powerful group (not necessarily the majority), political fragmentation, or a successful shared democracy.

Mounck comes from an individually contemporary liberal position, it is important to understand his ideas about diversity and group consciousness. He does not believe in racial fundamentalism, or that ethnic groups must be in conflict with each other. He sharply criticized both progressives and ultra-right conservatives for their racial indifference, and lamented their shared view that the United States must have an irreconcilable conflict between people of color and white. But he thinks it is human nature that we easily define groups and out-groups and unfortunately it is very easy to provoke conflicting attitudes between them.

This makes the creation and maintenance of a healthy diversified democracy a challenge, but no, he thinks, it is an impossibility.

Interestingly, he rejects one of the most prominent methods of managing a diverse democracy: federalism, where each group is formally guaranteed some degree of representation. Maunak cited Lebanon’s generation-long civil war as an example of the failure of unification that followed an era of extreme stability. At the heart of his critique is the risk that socialism too vigorously reconstitutes groups, replaces old ideas and conflicts, limits inter-group involvement at the social level and thus prevents the growth of a cohesive political identity across ethnicities.

Monk’s choice is for less rigid social orders, which he does not call the “cage of ideals.” In a less rigid society, group identities become more flexible and evolve over time. Italians and Eastern Europeans, who were once distinct ethnic groups in the United States, for example, are now generally classified and consider themselves white. And he noted that a similar process is underway with Latinos. Where progressive Latino activists pursued an essential identity politics, a growing number of American Latino now identify themselves as white.

But while rejecting racial necessity, he does not support another extreme of washing away all differences by following certain aspects of national purity. He values ​​the individual’s freedom to follow his own identity, and notes that identity is complex – a person, for example, can be both white and Latino without feeling any necessary internal conflict.

He also values ​​the inherent diversity that comes from group differences that become part of the mosaic of social life. As he beautifully describes, the mainstream expands in its internal diversity as different ethnic groups become mainstream. In short, Maunk thinks we shouldn’t try to squash identity or double it.

So far so good. But like most political books, problem analysis is more powerful than propaganda. To his credit, Maunk has clearly acknowledged the problem, but nonetheless, one can reasonably doubt whether he has been more successful than other writers in this most challenging part of any political analysis.

Some of his ideas are correct. Democracy must enact and enforce anti-discrimination laws and enact laws and policies that are not universal and race-based. Here he is a fierce critic of the progressive left, who has abandoned unity and universality and promotes biased legislation for specially identified sub-groups.

He also encourages economic growth, as groups that are in conflict with a shrinking pot are more likely to join him. However, it is not clear what economic growth he has a firm grasp of.

For example he favors strong social welfare policies along European lines rather than the American approach. But not only does this conflict with the goal of economic growth, he does not give a clear argument as to how social welfare programs promote peace within the group. Indeed, to the extent that a disaffected group may seem disproportionately benefited from social welfare to the majority, it may be that it may promote rather than reduce conflict. If he has an argument here outside the general support of liberals for social welfare, he will not do so.

He also supports what he would describe as a well-planned immigration ban. As an empirical point, he is probably right in saying that some limitations on the rate of immigration encourage the acceptance of new people into the current population. However, he reluctantly said that it was clear that the government had legitimate authority to make such regulations. From a point of view that is more critical of the claim to authority, it is not at all clear that governments can seek a better life for themselves and legitimately discriminate between them.

Finally, perhaps inevitably, he draws on the old fallback of political scientists, better personal behavior, not slandering others, being willing to criticize one’s own tribe, and clinging to your high democratic principles. This is something that all of us should practice, but like everyone who promotes it, he does not suggest a way for us to change a large population, including its underlying human flaws, to change individual behavior for the sake of missing stimulus-consistent institutional change. I can persuade.

There is another flaw in this book, which is also in it How democracy dies, And it is unfortunately the limited focus on Donald Trump as a threat to American democracy. This is probably a reflection of the author’s ideological and partisan tendencies, as well as his focus on ethnic group conflict, but it also enables him to ignore the way in which presidential authority has grown, including under former President Obama, and paves the way for a will. – Be strong like Trump. Indeed, the power of the presidency is a significant part of feeding inter-group rivalry in American politics – a very valuable award now beautifully lost, and former presidents of both parties are responsible for this rise to power. For the United States, at least, reducing the power of the president – perhaps the federal government as a whole – could also reduce potential conflicts.

Despite these limited errors, the book is important and should be read extensively. Climate change and economic growth are likely to continue to increase global migration (assuming countries do not respond to unreasonably tightening of their borders). As Mounck argues, we cannot turn the clock around increasing racial diversity – at least for now – democratically. This book is a good guide to understanding the risks that these countries face and provides food for reflection on how we can respond to them in order to promote a diverse, peaceful and equal democracy in our own country.

James E. Hanley

James E. Hanley

James E. Hanley is a senior policy analyst at the non-partisan Empire Center for Public Policy. He has earned his Ph.D. He taught political science and economics at the University of Oregon in political science, then at the post-doctoral fellowship and at the collegiate level for nearly two decades under the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics winner Eleanor Ostrom. The ideas expressed here do not reflect the views of his employer. He can be followed on Twitter at @empire_hanley.

Receive notifications of new articles from James E. Hanley and AIER.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.