The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World

In his new book, The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World (Times Books 2008), Larry Diamond intensely scrutinizes the global effort on democracy promotion. By both exploring the sources of progress as well as the locations and reasons for failure, Diamond presents a comprehensive assessment that is realistic but also hopeful. Diamond presents his arguments through a world of examples, citing the negative Putin's Russia and Musharraf's Pakistan; the unsuccessful politically but nevertheless exemplary Toledo's Peru; and even the more difficult places like Nepal, Iran, and Thailand.

By comparing the progress of today with that of the mid 1970s, when he was a Vietnam War protester, Diamond expresses hope. At that time, Diamond notes, barely a quarter of all independent states were using free and fair elections. But times have changed since then: "by the mid-1990s," he writes, "it had become clear to me, as it had to many of my colleagues involved in the global struggle for democracy, that if some three-fifths of the world's states, many of them poor and non-Western, could become democracies, there was no intrinsic reason why the rest of the world could not do as well."

Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, notes that "no one has thought harder or more broadly about the past and future of democracy than Larry Diamond. A passionate treatment, infused with optimism and eminently readable, The Spirit of Democracy is a must for anyone who cares about the toughest challenge of balancing national values and national interests."