This issue of Worth Reading features four recent books by authors affiliated with the National Endowment for Democracy: NED Board and Research Council Member Francis Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy; NED Board Member Azar Nafisi’s The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books; NED Board Member Stephen Sestanovich’s Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama; and Research Council Member Abraham F. Lowenthal’s Scholars, Policymakers, and International Affairs: Finding Common Cause, published with Mariano E. Bertucci.
Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama
Research Council Member Francis Fukuyama published Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy, the second of two volumes reexamining the themes taken up in Samuel Huntington’s 1968 work, Political Order in Changing Societies. Volume one, The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, examined the evolution of societies marked by the rule of law, meritocracy in the civil service, and political accountability. In volume two, Fukuyama embarks on a wide-ranging examination of how these institutions break down and become mired in corruption, cronyism, and dysfunction. From the French Revolution to post-colonial Latin America, the Arab Spring, and the future of modern American democracy, Fukuyama explores the sources of political decay in the modern age.
Watch Francis Fukuyama discuss his new book in a public presentation given at the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy.
The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi
Azar Nafisi’s The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books is a memoir in which she examines how engagement with the humanities (and literature in particular) is key to the health of American democracy. Through a “[blend] of memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite American novels–The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, among others”–Nafisi urges American lovers of literature to promote the humanities as an important avenue for understanding and participating in American democracy.
Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama by Stephen Sestanovich
Stephen Sestanovich’s Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama argues that “when the United States has succeeded in the world… it has done so not by staying the course but by having to change it–usually amid deep controversy and uncertainty.” Sestanovich highlights the way that the greatest successes and failures of US foreign policy have not been forgone conclusions born of bipartisan agreement, but were instead the product of frequent, intense disagreement and doubt. Maximalist throws leaders, crises, and turning points into new light as it demonstrates that foreign policy has always been a high-stakes operation conducted amidst the challenges of dysfunctional international institutions, reluctant allies, and political infighting. Sestanovich shows how these forces and their effect on US leaders create cycles of ambition and retrenchment which have repeated through nearly seven decades of US foreign policy.
Scholars, Policymakers, and International Affairs: Finding Common Cause by Abraham F. Lowenthal with Mariano E. Bertucci
Research Council Member Abraham F. Lowenthal published Scholars, Policymakers, and International Affairs: Finding Common Cause with Mariano E. Bertucci. Lowenthal and Bertucci’s work tackles the gap between theory and practice, seeking to reconcile scholastic and policy-making communities that sometimes believe they have nothing to offer each other. Through case studies exploring how academic work has helped “reduce income inequality, promote democratic governance, improve gender equity, target international financial sanctions, manage the Mexico-US border, and enhance inter-American cooperation,” the authors demonstrate that scholars can and do make positive contributions to public policy. However, the book also explains why they sometimes fail to do so, particularly in the areas of counternarcotics and citizen security.
About Worth Reading
Worth Reading is a list of featured readings on democracy disseminated semi-monthly by the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Many thanks to Francis Fukuyama, Azar Nafisi, Stephen Sestanovich, Abraham Lowenthal, and Mariano E. Bertucci for their hard work and insight. If you have materials you would like considered for inclusion in Worth Reading, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.