Summary of America’s Democratic Unraveling

Looking for the article?
We have the summary! Get the key insights in just 5 minutes.

America’s Democratic Unraveling summary

Editorial Rating



  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring


As history shows, democracy can easily wither and die. America has experienced numerous challenges to its democratic bulwark over the years, but, thus far, its institutions have avoided collapse. In this article for Foreign Affairs, economist Daron Acemoglu likens the slow but abrupt fall of democracies into authoritarianism to the way companies often go bankrupt: “gradually and then suddenly.” His thought-provoking essay offers the hopeful idea that, despite the polarization of its citizenry, the United States can, once again, restore trust in its democratic institutions.

About the Author

Daron Acemoglu is a professor of economics at MIT.


History is rich in examples of how democratic norms can succumb to totalitarianism.

Democracy rests on a handful of core tenets – the balance of power, collaboration and honesty – buttressed by the confidence of its citizens and a robust media presence. Yet the erosion of democratic foundations can happen much like a business failure: slowly at the start, then abruptly and completely. As those in power begin attacking a democracy’s institutions, those bastions begin to lose their capacity to check dictatorial transgressions. Gradually, bad behavior becomes...

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

By the same author

The Narrow Corridor
Democracy Does Cause Growth
Ill Winds
A Lot of People Are Saying
There Will Not Be a New Cold War
The Age of Zombie Democracies
This Is Not Propaganda
What Happens in Sudan Doesn’t Stay in Sudan

Related Channels