Democracy is in crisis. Illiberal state leaders, polarising culture wars, digital information wars, extremism and terror are darkening the political horizon of our time. Increasingly, there are warnings of the collapse of civilisation, and many wonder whether democracies will be able to cope with the challenges of the future.
In this book, Eirik Høyer Leivestad examines the crisis of democracy as a motif in modern culture's self-reflection, and probes 200 years of Western debate in search of the connections between today's events. By following the tension between mass and elite, Frykt og avsky i demokratiet draws lines from 19th-century discussions of equality to today's discussions of populism and social media. The result is a history of modern democracy, told through writers and thinkers such as Alexis de Tocqueville and Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt and Theodor W. Adorno.
Leivestad unravels a rich history of ideas to reflect on what he sees as the key contradictions and signs of change in our time. He analyses a situation where political democratic deficit coincides with cultural democratic surplus, where the fragmentation of the public is accompanied by calls for censorship and unity, where the distinction between right and left is confused by new lines of conflict, and paranoia and doom are spreading.
How can democracy, as a way of life and government, prepare itself for a time when it will be threatened by both internal conflicts and planetary crises?
Eirik Høyer Leivestad (b. 1984) teaches philosophy and history of ideas at the Academy of Culture in Berlin. He has written for a number of newspapers and magazines, and translated the philosophers Walter Benjamin, Peter Sloterdijk and Joseph Vogl into Norwegian. Frykt og avsky i demokratiet is his first book.