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Your Library, your democracy

webcard for library month

Oct 25, 2023

This month is Canadian Library Month, and OPL’s theme is “Your Library, your democracy.”

While the story of democracy goes back to Plato and the Greeks, it has become the world's predominant form of government in only the past quarter of a century. There were 11 democracies in 1900, 29 in 1974 and by 2006, the number of democracies increased to 86. But according to numerous reports, Democracy is confronting a global crisis. For the first time in more than two decades, the world has more dictatorships than liberal democracies with 12 consecutive years of decreasing levels of political rights and civil liberties across the globe. This decline in democracy has been marked by an increase in the polarization of opinion and calls for censorship of diverse voices. There has been a propagation of misinformation and propaganda, often targeting equity-deserving groups.

In recent years there has been an outpouring of writing on democracy, its discontents and solutions for moving forward. More than ever, it is important to learn more about democracy, or better yet, several stories to understand how present-day democracy was achieved. Here are a few reading suggestions.

Democracy
by Chris_biblio

  • Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone
    “When I look at all the forces aligned to roll back and block democratic change--the concentration of wealth, the structures of minority rule, the market imperative of endless growth, the seemingly irrepressible appeal of racism, and the rapidity of climate change--I feel my will weaken. Given the magnitude of the task at hand, how can people like me possibly make a dent? The established order is so big and powerful, and a single individual so vulnerable and small. But when I engage my intellect, something approaching optimism is possible. The past is proof that it can be done.”
  • Démocratie.com

    Démocratie.com

    pouvoir, culture et résistance à l'ère des géants de la Silicon Valley

    By Taylor, Astra
    Sans tomber dans un scepticisme stérile, Démocratie.com critique les discours techno-utopiques des penseurs des nouveaux médias et des militants pour le libre accès. Astra Taylor rappelle que la démocratie n’est pas une émanation directe des technologies et que pour faire d’internet une véritable plateforme populaire, il faut créer les conditions d’une culture démocratique durable.
  • Twilight of Democracy

    Twilight of Democracy

    The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

    By Applebaum, Anne
    The book begins with a party hosted on New Year’s Eve, 1999, where she and her Polish husband (a deputy foreign minister in a center-right government) at their home in the Polish countryside. The guests were united by the afterglow of the Cold War victory over Communism and a shared belief in “democracy, in the rule of law, in checks and balances, and in … a Poland that was an integrated part of modern Europe.” Yet, “Nearly two decades later, I would now cross the street to avoid some of the people who were at my New Year’s Eve party,” Applebaum writes. “They, in turn, would not only refuse to enter my house, they would be embarrassed to admit they had ever been there.” She focuses less on the emerging autocrats and their accommodating followers and more on the mindset of the enablers who facilitate the rise of a tyrant: "the authors, thinkers, pamphleteers, bloggers, public relations experts, television producers, and meme creators who can effectively market his persona to the masses.”
  • Démocraties en déclin

    Démocraties en déclin

    réflexions sur la tentation autoritaire

    By Applebaum, Anne
    Essai sur l'émergence d'une nouvelle droite et ses différentes formes en Pologne, en Hongrie, au Royaume-Uni et aux Etats-Unis. Cette idéologie se caractérise par une tendance à l'autoritarisme. Dans les pays où elle a conquis le pouvoir, se multiplient les purges dans les administrations, les institutions culturelles et les médias ou encore le recours au mensonge comme arme politique.
  • The Dawn of Everything

    The Dawn of Everything

    A New History of Humanity

    By Graeber, David
    Graeber and Wengrow argue that Indigenous concepts inspired the Enlightenment. In their view, the concepts of freedom, equality, and democracy, which had been lacking in the Western philosophy, were profoundly influenced by Indigenous thought. Moreover, they contend that the traditional narrative of human history as a linear progression of material advancement was formulated as a response to Indigenous criticism, aimed at preserving the prestige of the Western world. The argument was that the West was superior due to its greater wealth. Prompted by these ideas, the authors urge us to reconsider the true implications of 'better' and what we can learn from indigenous societies.
  • La mort des démocraties
    "Les démocraties ne meurent plus comme naguère, avec des coups d’État et des tanks dans la rue. Les gouvernements autoritaires s’installent désormais au pouvoir à la suite d’élections régulières. Commence alors un processus discret de démantèlement des institutions démocratiques qui remet en cause l’indépendance de la justice, limite la liberté de la presse, noyaute les instances arbitrales et redécoupe de manière partisane la carte électorale. Comment en arrive-t-on là?"
  • A Brief History of Equality
    Thomas Piketty's main thesis centers on a fundamental contradiction within capitalism: the average return on capital surpasses the rate of economic growth, leading to a scenario where inherited wealth grows faster than wealth generated through labor. This trend, if left unchecked, could result in unsustainable levels of economic inequality, potentially posing a threat to democratic systems. Piketty argues that this imbalance may ultimately usher in a return to a form of patrimonial capitalism akin to the 19th century, where wealth acquisition primarily occurred through inheritance or marriage, rather than through labor. To support his claims, Piketty extensively analyzed historical tax records spanning two centuries, with a focus on data from the United States and Europe, particularly France. Piketty's overarching concern lies in the potential long-term consequences of unaddressed wealth concentration, including its impact on democracy and societal stability.
  • Une brève histoire de l'égalité
    "Les questions économiques sont trop importantes pour être laissées à une petite classe de spécialistes et de dirigeants. La réappropriation citoyenne de ce savoir est une étape essentielle pour transformer les relations de pouvoir. » T. P. En présentant l'évolution en longue durée des inégalités entre classes sociales dans les sociétés humaines, Thomas Piketty propose une perspective nouvelle sur l'histoire de l'égalité. Il s'appuie sur une conviction forte forgée au fil de ses recherches : la marche vers l'égalité est un combat qui vient de loin, et qui ne demande qu'à se poursuivre au xxie siècle, pour peu que l'on s'y mette toutes et tous."
  • What Is Democracy?
    Director Astra Taylor's idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents, from ancient Athens's groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism's roots in medieval Italy, from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor.
  • Why the People

    Why the People

    The Case for Democracy

    By Feathers, Beka
    "Why the People is an earnest explainer of democratic governance with enough silliness to make it go down smoothly. Feathers grounds the conceit in the angsty American political moment. Her two female characters--a young white Wisconsinite and a middle-aged Californian daughter of Chinese immigrants--kill time at an airport answering a big, rarely asked question: "What kind of government is the best?" A couple hundred pages later, Feathers has made the case for democracy by astutely and amusingly breaking down alternates. Sidestepping ideological and economic arrangements (there's no communism vs. capitalism debate), she employs historical storytelling using robust examples, with friendly, accessible drawings by Shwed (Fault Lines in the Constitution)."