In This Review

After Democracy: Imagining Our Political Future
After Democracy: Imagining Our Political Future
By Zizi Papacharissi
Yale University Press, 2021, 176 pp

Liberal democracy has fallen on hard times, besieged by populist and authoritarian challengers. In this fascinating, if slightly meandering, rumination on the future of democracy, Papacharissi sees glimmers of hope amid growing obstacles. From its ancient roots in classical Greece, government “by the people” has repeatedly been in crisis, faced extinction, and enjoyed moments of rebirth. Papacharissi is particularly interested in the impact on citizens of the information revolution and Internet-based communication platforms. Social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter appear to provide a “public space” for conversations, but not a “public sphere” in which citizens can engage with one another as members of a political community. The book is organized as a sort of travelogue, studded with interviews with people from a variety of countries. Across diverse political settings, these interviewees emphasize that they value democracy not just as a framework for the protection of rights but also as a way of reconciling differences and preserving the greater good of the country. Papacharissi distills her conversations into an agenda for the repair of the liberal democratic way of life: invest more in civic education, reduce economic inequality, and foster a more public interest media environment that prizes the truth.