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The Reactionary Spirit: How America’s Most Insidious Political Tradition Swept the World

The Reactionary Spirit: How America’s Most Insidious Political Tradition Swept the World

Author Zack Beauchamp
Publisher Public Affairs
Publication Date 2024-07-16
Section New Hardcover - Nonfiction / Politics
Type New
Format Hardcover
ISBN 9781541704411

With keen and original insight, Vox journalist Zack Beauchamp traces how a reactionary antidemocratic ethos born and bred in America has come to infect democracies around the world

There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of American politics that has endured since our nation’s birth. The defining ideals of democracy and liberty for everyone have always existed uneasily alongside realities of slavery, widespread disenfranchisement, and other grave impediments to true democracy. How has this paradox survived for so long in the face of America’s foundational claim of liberty and justice for all?

In The Reactionary Spirit, Zack Beauchamp explains that this tension is in fact an example of a phenomenon intrinsic to the project of democracy, what he calls the reactionary spirit: as strides towards true democracy are made, there is always a faction that reacts by seeking to undermine them and thereby resist change. The adoption of democratic rhetoric cleverly belies authoritarian ends—a development that is increasingly prevalent today, both at home and abroad.

Brilliantly combining political history and reportage, Beauchamp reveals how the United States was the birthplace of this strange and harrowing authoritarian style, and why we’re now seeing its evolution in diverse nations including Hungary, Israel, and India. These countries in turn provide blueprints for the reactionary spirit domestically, as with Florida governor Ron DeSantis taking pages from Hungarian president Viktor Orbán’s anti-LGBT legislative playbook.

The Reactionary Spirit paints a vivid, alarming picture that illuminates not only what’s happening to democracy globally, but also what we must do to protect it—while we still can.

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