The full chronological sweep of democracy, from the assemblies of ancient Mesopotamia and Athens to present perils around the globe. The Shortest History books deliver thousands of years of history in one riveting, fast-paced read.
This compact history unspools the tumultuous global story that began with democracy’s radical core idea: We can collaborate, as equals, to determine our own futures. Acclaimed political thinker John Keane traces how this concept emerged and evolved, from the earliest “assembly democracies” in Syria-Mesopotamia to European-style “electoral democracy” and to our uncertain present.
Today, thanks to our always-on communication channels, governments answer not only to voters on Election Day but to intense scrutiny every day. This is “monitory democracy”—in Keane’s view, the most complex and vibrant model yet—but it’s not invulnerable. Monitory democracy comes with its own pathologies, and the new despotism wields powerful warning systems, from social media to election monitoring, against democracy itself.
At this urgent moment, when despots in countries such as China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia reject the promises of democratic power-sharing, Keane mounts a bold defense of a precious global ideal.