The broken constitution and other books on democracy this week



This week includes three books on American politics, including two books focusing on the American Constitution. The other two books discuss political thought in India and democracy in Latin America. Only two of the books directly touch on democracy, yet all the books deal with topics of interest to those concerned with democratic governance.

This list focuses on the new books released this week. Some books are likely to escape my attention. The rise of ebooks has also made publication dates less clear. So, this is my best effort to raise awareness on the latest democracy scholarship.

The Broken Constitution

The broken constitution - Lincoln, slavery and the refoundation of America

Noah Feldman is a law professor at Harvard University who hosts the podcast, Deep background. He recently made a three-episode bonus series on his podcast in which he discusses ideas in his book. The book discusses what historians have long called The Second Foundation. However, it seems to focus more on Lincoln’s approach to the constitution during the Civil War rather than on recreating the constitution during reconstruction through the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

The book is partly historical, but Feldman points out in his bonus short podcasts that it has relevance to our interpretation of the constitution today. Anyone who studies American democracy has found it necessary to struggle with the constitution. For example, Robert Dahl even wrote an important work called, How democratic is the US Constitution?. Feldman seems to use the motif of a broken constitution to establish a new point of origin for American democracy. It sounds like a great read for those interested in the history of American democracy.

Noah Feldman, The broken constitution: Lincoln, slavery and the refoundation of America

The original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment

For those seeking an even deeper dive into the constitution, Randy Barnett and Evan Bernick offer a close look at the 14th Amendment. This amendment more than any other reminds scholars why the Civil War period was truly a second foundation. The 14th Amendment reshaped the constitution in many ways the founders never wanted. Indeed, this amendment pushed America much closer to liberal democracy than anything else in the nineteenth century other than the abolition of slavery. This book involves careful examination of the primary sources to explain the literal meaning and spirit of the law itself.

Evan D. Bernick and Randy E. Barnett, The original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment: its letter and its spirit

America: unite or die

America unites or dies

Douglas Schoen and Carly Cooperman offer yet another assessment of the state of American politics. Some readers can’t get enough of this topic, while others may have grown tired of reading this book after another on the same subject. Schoen and Cooperman approach the topic as political insiders with a background as campaign consultants rather than political historians or scientists. It is unlikely to attract much attention among academics, but it may attract a more popular audience.

Douglas Schoen and Carly Cooperman, America: unite or die: how to save our democracy

Democracy and security in Latin America

Democracy and security in Latin America

Democracy and security in Latin America is a volume edited with contributions focused on the capacity of the state with some reflections on the pandemic scattered everywhere. It is divided into a part on general topics followed by country specific case studies. Some notable scholars who contributed to this volume include John Polga-Hecimovich on Venezuela and Rut Diamint on Argentina.

Gabriel Marcella, Orlando J. Pérez and Brian Fonseca (Editor) Democracy and security in Latin America: State capacity and governance under stress

Violent brotherhood

Violent brotherhood

India is the largest democracy in the world and among the oldest outside the West. It has long represented a model of democracy for non-Western states. However, the rise of Hindu nationalism has challenged liberalism, if not democracy itself in India. Of course, Indian politics did not change overnight. Many of the political traditions discussed today have a long history. Shruti Kapila offers a deep dive into the history of political thought in India that explains its political traditions and current trajectory.

Shruti Kapila, Violent Brotherhood: Indian Political Thinking in the Global Era


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