Ecology of Nations: American Democracy in a Fragile World Order

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Ecology of Nations: American Democracy in a Fragile World Order
How democracies compete with autocracies to bias international order in their favor--and why democracies are losing

It is well known, and much discussed, that liberal democracy is in trouble worldwide. Much of this discussion focuses on conditions within individual countries: their inequalities of wealth, political polarization, media environments, and dominant ideologies. In this book, John M. Owen IV sees the failures of democracy as failures of "ecosystem engineering."

Like beavers, nesting ants, or (most intensely of all) humans, nations actively reshape their environments to make them more favorable for their own species--this, for Owen, is the true meaning of Woodrow Wilson's phrase "to make the world safe for democracy." However, liberalism has evolved in ways that are no longer conducive to its own survival; meanwhile, autocratic governments in Russia and China are actively reshaping the international environment to favor autocracy.

Owen argues that the way to ensure democracy's survival in the United States is to reimagine liberalism--to view it as less about disruption and perpetual openness and more about commitment, community, and country. Liberalism must reject the "great delusion" that it can defeat autocracies everywhere and convert them into liberal democracies, yet also counter moves by China and Russia to make the world safe for autocracy.

Publication Date: 
September 26, 2023