Customer Review

Reviewed in Australia on 21 August 2020
Democracy, a User’s Guide, is a tour de force of research, organisation, clarity of thought and presentation that provides the best analysis I’ve read of the multiple aspects of democracy, its failures, successes, and importance as a means of improving the quality of life. 
In the Introduction we are asked, “What good is selecting our politicians, if we cannot control our media, police or soldiers? If we must blindly follow our teachers’ and bosses’ commands, is it not a little naïve to believe that we are the masters of our own destinies? And if our resources are controlled by a tiny cabal of plutocrats, bankers and corporations; can we honestly say that our economies are being run for us?” 
After reading the book you will know the answer and what you can do about it.
The layout is ideal. In every chapter the author states the problem, provides examples, proposes solutions, then summarises—always in a manner that is irreproachably even-handed; criticising when necessary, praising when appropriate in rational and informative prose that is a delight to read.
The intriguing history of democracy practiced by other primates is followed by that used by hunter-gatherer societies for hundreds of thousands of years until the relatively recent past when the introduction of farming and towns wrought changes that have led to today’s less than democratic world.
Subsequent chapters on the astonishing variety of democratic organisations to be found in every human situation from education to the economy, public service to the media, workplace to politics… inform, entertain and provoke careful thought, while providing essential and, for me at least, new and exciting ideas and information for the debate humans must have if they hope to reshape society as a true democracy for the benefit of everyone, not just the oligarchs.
In my opinion, the way we are governed and organise our lives, activities, workplaces and finances should be part of the education curriculum at all levels, if we want our children to enjoy a full and satisfying life. Yet it is rare for schools to examine such things in depth. This book would be a valuable resource for such study in schools at all levels.
I can’t help wondering if, instead of the headmaster’s annual rant about the line of succession of English kings, wars and conquests, we had been taught about democratic medieval guilds that protected individual business and workers, then we would have fought harder to prevent the predatory practices of oligarchs whose supermarkets, and other supranational corporations have replaced the legions of small enterprises that used to benefit the community instead of absent shareholders.
I heartily recommend this book to everyone interested in the way we are governed, and how we could improve things if we put our minds to it.
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