In This Review

Democratic Futures: Revisioning Democracy Promotion
Democratic Futures: Revisioning Democracy Promotion
By Milja Kurki
Routledge, 2013, 296 pp

This book provides a useful contribution to debates about democracy promotion by looking at what Kurki deems the “hidden” assumptions about political change that inform discussions of the topic. Kurki brings a rather cumbersome critical-theory approach to her inquiry. But it does yield interesting insights into the evolution of ideas about how to promote democracy. Kurki believes U.S. policy thinkers limit themselves by backing a narrow, procedural democratic model tied to elections and laissez-faire capitalism, blinding themselves to alternative models such as those based on European social democratic liberalism and the World Bank’s technocratic neoliberalism. But generally, Kurki finds that in recent years, Western thinking on democracy has become less triumphalist and less dependent on one-size-fits-all visions. She seems surprised to find that a growing contestation of ideas has roiled the democracy-promotion establishment. But the book itself is an innovative contribution to that debate.