Summary of Ill Winds

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Ill Winds book summary

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Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency was a major blow to the advancement of democratic ideals, argues political sociologist Larry Diamond. With America becoming less tolerant and more dysfunctional, thanks in large part to polarization, fledgling democracies are struggling to survive. Meanwhile, Diamond writes, Chinese and Russian authoritarianism are a rising threat to the liberal world order. This book evaluates the factors that created current power struggles, and offers practical guidance on how individuals can – and must – help reform democracy to secure global security and peace.

About the Author

Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and its Hoover Institution. He is also a founding coeditor at the Journal of Democracy.


Freedom requires democracy, but, globally, commitment to democratic ideals is waning.

Democracy – the governmental system wherein a nation’s citizens “can choose and replace their leaders in regular, free, and fair elections” – is in crisis. Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency marked a nearly inconceivable low in dirty politics. More than that, it marked a low in global efforts to secure freedoms. The election of this man, full of disdain for immigrants and respect for dictators, offered a clear warning signal about the declining strength of democracy in the United States.

Democracy is also endangered elsewhere around the globe, poisoned by intolerance and polarization. Illiberal populism is growing in Europe. Wars are raging in Syria and other countries. Xenophobes have risen to power and undercut democracy in Poland and Hungary. In 2016, Great Britain voted to separate from the European Union. 

Democratic legitimacy – the belief in democracy’s superiority over other types of government – relies on individuals’ commitment to democratic ideals. It requires compromise, civility, moderation...

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