→︎
The Supreme Court Matters Like Never Before

Is it now a legislature?

by Michael Lind
Who Goes Trump?

What ultimately determines support for the GOP nominee isn’t race, class, or political ideology. It’s character.

by James Kirchick
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram Censor COVID-19 News From China

The tech monopolies and other U.S. elites are too heavily invested in the CCP to allow Trump’s ‘decoupling’

by Lee Smith
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram Censor COVID-19 News From China

The tech monopolies and other U.S. elites are too heavily invested in the CCP to allow Trump’s ‘decoupling’

by Lee Smith
3,000 Hasidic Cossacks Congregate on Ukrainian Border

Is Rebbe Nachman playing a practical joke from beyond the grave, or is this Eastern Europe’s version of normal during a pandemic? And who paid for the shirts?

by Vladislav Davidzon
How the Media Led the Great Racial Awakening

Years before Trump’s election the media dramatically increased coverage of racism and embraced new theories of racial consciousness that set the stage for the latest unrest

by Zach Goldberg
The New American Blindness

How the data-driven political journalism of Ezra Klein, Nate Silver, and others, applies the techno-elitist values of Silicon Valley to flatten political reality

by Sean Cooper
A Popular Revolt Against a Pro-Russian Dictator, in Belarus

Dispatch from the protests where, unlike in Western Europe, tattooed demonstrators with purple hair and skinny jeans also wear large crosses

by Vladislav Davidzon
The Tablet Ten

Jews running for Congress this fall who are worth keeping an eye on, whether or not you’re Jewish

by Armin Rosen
Wake Up America, and Smell the Anti-Semitism

Americans of all races and political outlooks revile and attack Jews with unprecedented glee, while American Jews would rather talk about anything else

by Eve Barlow
Left Heretics and the New Media Collective

Campus Week: The one-party journalism system suffers no dissent from within. Here are some who do it anyway.

by Jacob Siegel
The Academic Origins of the American Revolution

Campus Week: The intersectional monster has risen up against its white progressive boomer creators, and there’s little they, or anyone else, can do about it

by Lama Abu-Odeh
Bard College Sells Out

Campus Week: Does George Soros’ new educational initiative rent out universities as vehicles for politics?

by Gennady Shkliarevsky
The Sickness of Higher Ed

Campus Week: What college faculty and administrations should have done over the plague summer, and why we’re still not doing it

by Mordechai Levy-Eichel
Identity Theft

The practice of claiming undeserved victimhood status is shameful and harms those who are actually in need

by Zaid Jilani
Israel Was Ground Zero for the New Woke Religion

How coverage of the Jewish state became a signifier of the ideological activism that now permeates Western culture

by Matti Friedman
The American Soviet Mentality

Collective demonization invades our culture

by Izabella Tabarovsky
Woke Inc.

A seemingly socially conscious corporate America is not a new phenomenon. It’s a revival of an old one.

by Michael Lind
The New American Blindness

How the data-driven political journalism of Ezra Klein, Nate Silver, and others, applies the techno-elitist values of Silicon Valley to flatten political reality

by Sean Cooper
The ‘Diversity’ Trap

Progressive ideas about diversity have taken over the corporate world but they offer a skin-deep version obsessed only with color and conformity

by Zaid Jilani
Our Deathwish

How we got to the new normal

by Jacob Siegel
A Rabbi in Riyadh

The first Jewish faith leader received by a Saudi monarch recounts his visit with King Salman

by David Rosen
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The Great Stanley Crouch

An American immigrant jazz buff expresses his gratitude to a supremely gifted critic who loved the music and loathed bullshit

by Tony Badran
The Marxist Who Became the World’s Most Influential Talmudic Scholar

And the rabbi who helped to guide him

by Reuven Leigh
Opening the Gates of Jewish Study in the Soviet Union

In Memory of R. Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz

by David Rozenson
Free Black Thought

Campus Week: The case for heterodoxy in views on race

by Brittany Talissa King
The Lamonby Case

Campus Week: The troubling dismissal of a teacher at Solent University in the U.K. reflects the dangers of lack of due process in accusations of racism

by Richard Landes, Jonathan Hoffman
A Fatal Inconsistency in the Work of Yuval Noah Harari

Campus Week: The bestselling historian, philosopher, and darling of Silicon Valley is missing something about our scholarly search for truth

by Shawn Vandor
Judith Butler’s Veil

Campus Week: How a toxic postcolonial, postmodern discourse essentializes Muslim women into only their covering

by Elham Manea
Don’t Go to College. Do This Instead.

Five alternatives to wasting your time and money on a worthless degree

by Liel Leibovitz
Keeper of the Flame

Experimental-fiction king Ben Marcus, the son of a Jewish father and an Irish Catholic mother, may be the best Jewish writer in America

by David Samuels
Tablet’s COVID Summer Zoom Bar Mitzvah New Music Playlist

10 songs to get you through

by Will Schube
Rap Talmud

Tablet’s resident East Coast and West Coast hip-hop heads discuss the sounds of a hot, angry, sickening summer

by Jeff Weiss, Armin Rosen
Q&A: The Passions of the Weiss

The LA music writer who took down Post Malone talks about Baton Rouge rap, the pillaging of the ‘LA Weekly,’ and what Philip Roth has in common with Drakeo

by David Samuels
The Lie of Viktor Frankl

The author of the strangely misleading ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,’ repackaged as a psychotropic New Age guru, in the newly translated ‘Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything’

by David Mikics
John Coplans’ Jewish Body

A surprising find among the late photographer’s few papers reveals a man in search of a synagogue

by Joe Fyfe
Tom Stoppard and Tony Kushner Wander Around Mitteleuropa

Suspended productions of ‘Leopoldstadt’ and ‘The Visit’ try to update the traumas that broke families in World War II

by A.J. Goldmann
Who Wore ‘Faust’ Best?

Thomas Mann and his son Klaus Mann both wrote novels that updated Goethe’s ‘Faust’ for the horrors of the 20th century. Whose version will be remembered?

by David P. Goldman
A Ljubljana Fairy Tale

Before the plague, in the Slovenian art-world destination with a Cyanometer, Rambo Amadeus, and Slavoj Žižek

by Vladislav Davidzon
Bullies, Inc.

How CNN head Jeff Zucker’s Miami high school days explain the bizarro alt-reality world of his future frenemy, Donald Trump

by Andrew Fox
J.M. Coetzee’s Jesus Novels

In ‘The Death of Jesus,’ which closes a remarkable trilogy, the Nobel Prize-winning author recasts familiar parables, challenging the Western tradition to recognize its own demise

by Adam Kirsch
On the Etymology of ‘Shyster’

What does the insult mean, and to whom can it be applied?

by Bryan A. Garner
The Harvard Jesus Hoax

Ariel Sabar, in ‘Veritas,’ turns the true story of an academic con into a gripping thriller starring an overzealous feminist history prof, a wily forger, and Jesus’ wife

by David Mikics
The Great Riffer

ABC’s and P’s & Q’s, in Jeremy Sigler’s latest book of poetry, ‘Goodbye Letter’

by Marjorie Perloff
A Conversation With Marjorie Perloff

The fearlessly outspoken critic and Stanford titan on the contemporary poetry canon, the complexities of O.J. Simpson, and the non-Zen of John Cage

by Jeremy Sigler
Tell Me a Story

Who was Arnaldo Dante Momigliano, other than perhaps one of the greatest shapers of how we understand history? A former pupil investigates.

by Anthony Grafton
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Orthodoxy and Liberalism

Isaiah’s challenge to Halachic life, then and now

by Bernard Avishai
‘Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters’

Lessons for 2020 from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 1963 address on religion and race

by Micah Streiffer
Ashes to Ashes

My mother and I had different ideas about our Jewish identity. After she died, I had one more compromise to make.

by Ellen Blum Barish
Civil Rights: The View From an Orthodox Yeshiva

Halachic thoughts on the present unrest

by Cole S. Aronson
‘We Must Engage the World Right Now’

Rabbi Norman Lamm—theologian, orator, and my grandfather—believed that in the struggle against racism, Jews should both teach and listen

by Ari Lamm
Coronaspection: Introspections 1-13

Cardinal Cristoph Schonborn, Elder Jeffrey Holland, Rabbi Dov Singer

by Alon Goshen-Gottstein
Coronaspection: World Religious Leaders Look Inward During a Time of Global Hardship

One of the most important insights of the Coronaspection project, which brings together 40 world religious leaders for their insights on faith during the time of the coronavirus, has to do with the sense of solidarity and interconnectedness of humanity. Unity is one outcome that almost all participants recognize, and this unity extends also to some significant dimension of unity across religions. United in their struggle with the spiritual challenges of one virus, religious leaders of different traditions share their particular vision across religious boundaries.

by Alon Goshen-Gottstein
Eating Our Way to Holiness

The spirit and the letter of keeping kosher

by Mary Lane Potter
Why We Didn’t Circumcise Our Second Son

Our first son got the traditional brit. But not this time around.

by Yagi Morris
Choosing Life

After giving birth to a stillborn baby, finding comfort in Jewish ritual and scripture

by Kate McGee
What My Kippah Means to Me

As a butch lesbian, wearing a yarmulke connects me to my people—and to myself

by Olivia Swasey
The Battle of the Baal Shem Tov

What I learned as a child, listening to my father and grandfather argue over the founder of Hasidic Judaism

by Alter Yisrael Shimon Feuerman
Learning Hebrew—at Last

Without knowing the language, there was no way to fully participate in my community—not in the way I wanted to

by Roseanne Benjamin
Becoming a Man

How expectations around gender and sexuality led me to embrace Orthodoxy—and then leave it

by Lance Tukell
Secular Synagogues Take Root in Israel

A new kind of spiritual community blossoms

by Paula Jacobs
The Orthodox Jew and the Atheist

How I learned that righteousness and morality are a question of behavior, not belief

by Rebecca Klempner
Pants, Pants Revolution: How My First Pair of Jeans Redefined Modesty for Me

When I bought jeans recently, I redefined what ‘tzniut’ means to me as an Orthodox woman

by Simi Lampert
Lost and Found

How I lost my Mormonism and came to embrace the Jewish way

by Nathan Steiger
Why a Conservative Female Rabbi Decided To Pull Away From Her Male Friends

‘I had to dial back my friendships with men, for the sake of my marriage’

by Rachel Miller Solomin
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The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Abraham Accords prove that Trump’s majestic robes are real—at least in the Middle East

by Michael Doran
Inside the Struggle Between Israel and Hezbollah

With ongoing Iranian backing, the Lebanese terror group is more determined than ever to deliver offensive blows inside Israeli territory

by Shimon Shapira
How Denmark, Sweden, the U.N., and the EU Got Suckered Into Funding a Terror Organization

The PFLP’s grotesque hybrid of a terror arm and an NGO network murders innocent people while raking in millions from the West

by Yosef Kuperwasser
The Abraham Accords!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the White House upon the signing of the amazing and unexpected peace treaty between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain

by Benjamin Netanyahu
China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom

China’s drive for supremacy is now underway in the Middle East—and it won’t end there

by Michael Doran, Peter Rough
Bringing the Middle East Back Home

The American Orientalist Class attempts to paint a fantasy Middle Eastern landscape on the American canvas

by Tony Badran
A Rabbi in Riyadh

The first Jewish faith leader received by a Saudi monarch recounts his visit with King Salman

by David Rosen
Lebanon’s Interwoven Fantasy Worlds All Lead to War With Israel

How much should America pay to maintain the fraying fabric?

by Tony Badran
Qatar’s State-of-the-Art Foreign Lobbying Campaign

Think tanks, universities, museums, newspapers, and key congressional committees are all pieces in a game of 3D chess that the tiny Gulf state is playing with its rivals, using Washington, D.C., as its game board

by Lee Smith
Annexing the Jordan Valley

Israel’s coalition government contemplates redrawing the country’s borders, with America’s blessing. Senior ex-diplomat Dore Gold gives the inside scoop on how and why the status quo may not last long.

by Armin Rosen
Inside an Israeli Coronavirus Hospital

How Galilee Medical Center in the northern town of Nahariya is tackling COVID-19

by Hillel Kuttler
How Iran Became a Global Vector of Infection for COVID-19

The authoritarian theocracy faces specific challenges in dealing with the coronavirus

by Noam Blum
When May Day Was a Major Event in Israel

In some Israeli communities, the international workers holiday was just as important as the Jewish holidays

by Armin Rosen
A Q&A With Dorit Rabinyan, the Wonder Woman of New Israeli Lit

In a landscape vacated of the two literary giants Aharon Appelfeld and Amos Oz, Israeli fiction ushers in the rise of a new generation of women writers. The author of ‘All the Rivers’ talks about sabras in New York, American Jewry’s allure, and learning to listen for the perfect watermelon.

by David Samuels
The New MMA Hotbed: Israel

A father passes the fighting torch to his prodigal son, and a new generation of combat athletes makes a name for the Promised Land

by Hillel Kuttler
How Osama Bin Laden Outsmarted the U.S. and Got What He Wanted

The point of Sept. 11 wasn’t to terrorize the West. It was to get the U.S. out of the Muslim world—and it worked.

by David Samuels
Bibi, King of Israel

The most talented politician in Israeli history cracks his demented foes like walnuts

by Liel Leibovitz
Q&A With Israel’s Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak

A conversation with the Israeli leader on the cusp of an election that he hopes will restore his center-left political coalition to power and once again put him in charge of Israel’s future

by David Samuels
Obama Passed the Buck. Trump Refused to Play.

The Iran deal was never meant to stop Iran from building a bomb—it was supposed to delay it until disaster happened on someone else’s watch

by Lee Smith
One Last Interview

Three weeks before his death in 2016, Shimon Peres sat for what he intended to be a Rosh Hashanah-timed discussion about the state of the world. It was also his final one.

by David Samuels
The Jews Make it to the Moon

But not without misfortunes

by Armin Rosen
Malley in Wonderland

How Obama’s ‘progressive’ foreign policy vision—to backpedal away from the Middle East, fast, while kicking our former allies in the region to the curb—became consensus in D.C.

by Tony Badran
Spies in the Basement

The extraordinary true cloak-and-dagger tale of how a chance encounter in a London bookstore made peace possible, on the 25th anniversary of the Israel-Jordan accords

by Haim Be’er
Arafat and the Ayatollahs

The PLO’s greatest single contribution to the Iranian Revolution was the formation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the Palestinian leader’s involvement with Iran didn’t end there

by Tony Badran
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Preserving Our Heritage, One Recipe at a Time

The Jewish Food Society delves into the people and the stories behind the dishes it hopes to pass down to a new generation

by Leah Koenig
Tel Aviv’s Original Culinary Scene

A century before the city became the trendy ‘bubble’ that it is today, pioneering restaurants and cafes set a cosmopolitan tone

by Janna Gur
The Best Mail-Order Kosher Food You’ve Never Heard Of

From bacon challah and beef jerky to artisanal herring and designer chocolate, these treats are guaranteed to spice up any High Holiday meal at home

by Yair Rosenberg
Saying Goodbye to Seafood

When I converted to Judaism, I left behind part of my Norwegian heritage

by Nina Lichtenstein
How Mustard Became the King of Jewish Condiments

Its delicious legacy stretches from the corner deli all the way back to Abraham

by Edie Jarolim
The Ashkenazi Version of Mac and Cheese

While holiday and Shabbat specialties fill Jewish cookbooks, we often forget the pleasures of seemingly ordinary, everyday food—like egg noodles with cottage cheese

by Leah Koenig
The Trouble With Tsimmes—and How to Fix It

This stew of root vegetables and dried fruit is a staple of Ashkenazi cooking, but it doesn’t have to be the bland, gloppy mess we’ve come to know

by Leah Koenig
How to Make Kosher Prosciutto

The Jews of Italy used goose instead of pork to make their distinctive charcuterie

by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta
Saying Goodbye to Bacon

Deciding to keep kosher really meant grappling with one meaty addiction

by Liel Leibovitz
Searching for Babka’s Soul

This ‘traditional’ Ashkenazi favorite has evolved many times over the years—and it continues to change with the times

by Leah Koenig
A Prescription for Sauerkraut

Exploring the health benefits of fermented foods

by Erik Ofgang
Eating Our Way to Holiness

The spirit and the letter of keeping kosher

by Mary Lane Potter
→︎
Where to Stream High Holiday Services

Synagogues ring in the Jewish New Year with online services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

by Tablet Magazine
Books for Kids With Anxiety

A recent spate of titles can help children struggling in our scary world

by Marjorie Ingall
A New Year Like No Other

As the High Holidays approach in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, synagogues rethink their offerings

by Paula Jacobs
Not Just a Justice, but Also a Mensch

What I learned about Ruth Bader Ginsburg in writing two children’s books about her

by Debbie Levy
Big Bird

The rise of the kosher chicken business in America

by Jenna Weissman Joselit
Zoom Mitzvahs

As parents plan bar and bat mitzvahs during the pandemic, a rite of passage is reimagined with new priorities to fit a new reality

by Paula Jacobs
How to Talk to Your Kids About Police Brutality

And how to talk to them about anti-racist protesting

by Marjorie Ingall
Our True Colors

Coming face-to-face with racism in the Jewish community

by Marra B. Gad
Civil Rights: The View From an Orthodox Yeshiva

Halachic thoughts on the present unrest

by Cole S. Aronson
What It Feels Like to Sit Shiva Alone

I wanted to be comforted by friends, and to hear stories about my dad. The COVID pandemic made that impossible.

by Jamie Betesh Carter
The Resilience of Rituals

Attending a virtual shiva, I saw how Jewish traditions still hold up under the most extraordinary circumstances

by Alanna E. Cooper
Missing My Dad’s Yahrzeit

When my shul closed during the pandemic, I lost the place where I usually commemorate my father’s death and say Kaddish for him

by Leonard Felson
Shul in the Time of Coronavirus

With COVID-19 pushing synagogues to consider virtual gatherings, we should understand what it means to come together physically

by David Zvi Kalman
The Ethics of Takeout

How do we balance the seemingly contradictory virtues of supporting our local businesses and protecting workers during the pandemic?

by Marjorie Ingall
A Jew Named Christine

People say the darnedest things to us converts. Please stop.

by Christine Beresniova
Lessons From Jewish Sexual Law (in a Sexless Pandemic)

Judaism has something to say about enforced sexual separation, and not just for the Orthodox

by Merissa Nathan Gerson
Day School Bullies

I was ridiculed and physically abused for being the wrong kind of Jewish boy. As a result, it took decades to come to terms with my identity.

by Aaron Hamburger
My Crushes on Rabbis

My youthful admiration for religious teachers, and my desire to please and even emulate them, ultimately helped me connect with myself as a Jewish adult

by Alter Yisrael Shimon Feuerman
Among the Mourners

As a woman, I felt left out of Jewish mourning rituals after my father died. Thirty years later, I found a new place where I finally feel like I count.

by Anna El-Eini
Sex and the Religious Girl

Growing up in a religious family where premarital sex was forbidden and sex wasn’t discussed, I wasn’t taught how to deal with the dangers I’d face

by Yona Rose
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Cancel Culture

Who’s worked up about it, and why

by Marjorie Ingall
The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2019

This year’s list features culinary espionage, dragons, and a purse shaped like a french-fry takeout box

by Marjorie Ingall
Judaism During—and After—the Pandemic

Social distancing has, in a way, allowed us into each other’s homes more than ever. Will being apart end up bringing Jews together?

by Micah Streiffer
My Nonbinary Journey

After years of confusion around my gender identity and sexuality, I realized I wasn’t gay or bisexual, or a man or a woman. And as I led my congregation through Yom Kippur services, I finally showed up as myself.

by JB Levine
The Boys of Summer

When my father disappeared, I was left with questions. Decades later, I found some answers—in a book about baseball.

by Debby Waldman
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Inventing the Karaites

A story of historical forgery and fraud that saved a Jewish community from conscription and death, at the price of their authentic history and faith

by Daniel J. Lasker
About Time

How early modern European calendars changed Jewish conceptions of time

by Anthony Grafton
The Dagger of Faith in the Digital Age

by Ryan Szpiech
Smuggling Jewish Refugees in Key West

How the Caribbean became a stopping point for the American journey of so many Jews

by Arlo Haskell
Jewish Self-Government in Europe Was Not Just a Dream—It Was a Failure

The Council of Four Lands was the central body of Jewish autonomy in Poland for nearly two centuries. What went wrong?

by Moshe Rosman
The Rebellion Against Rashi

New scholarship captures the fierce but failed attempt to dethrone Judaism’s preeminent biblical commentator

by Eric Lawee
The Jewish Exiles Return to Germany

by Jürgen Habermas
Jan Gross’ Order of Merit

The groundbreaking scholar of Polish anti-Semitism is caught up in a toxic new nationalism that seeks to edit shameful persecution of Jews out of history

by Anna Bikont
A Mighty Empire Brought Down by Plague

We have seen this story before, says Kyle Harper’s brilliant ‘The Fate of Rome’

by Edward N. Luttwak
Regaining Jerusalem

Jewish slaveowners celebrate Passover in 17th-century Suriname

by Natalie Zemon Davis
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Who Cares About a Matchmaker, Anyway?

by Ephraim Kanarfogel
Q&A: Noam Chomsky

The world’s most important leftist intellectual talks about his Zionist childhood and his time with Hezbollah

by David Samuels
Is It Permitted to Flee the City?

The coronavirus creates an unsettling tunnel in time between 21st-century New York and the world of 16th-century rabbis

by Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg
‘Yeah, Yeah’: Eulogy for Sidney Morgenbesser, Philosopher With a Yiddish Accent

by David Shatz
How Think Tanks Became Engines of Royal Propaganda

What their French origins, and their waning and rising relevance to the power structures over the centuries, say about the new Washington

by Jacob Soll
The Jewish Jesus Story

In the mysterious and controversial ancient Hebrew text ‘Toledot Yeshu,’ a counterlife of the Nazarene ‘bastard, son of a menstruant’ that criticizes Jews as much as Christians

by Eli Yassif
Safed Kabbalah and Renaissance Italy

How Lurianic mysticism made its way to Europe—and back to the Middle East

by Moshe Idel
The State of Emergency as a Paradigm of Government

Is the ‘state of exception’ now the rule?

by Giorgio Agamben
A Beast of Unknown Origins

The surprising Jewish origins of the animated character who taught a generation of Soviet children to be good communists

by Maya Balakirsky Katz
Urban Sephardic Culture in the Ottoman Empire

by Yaron Ben-Naeh
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Hydroxychloroquine: A Morality Tale

A startling investigation into how a cheap, well-known drug became a political football in the midst of a pandemic

by Norman Doidge
Medicine’s Fundamentalists

The randomized control trial controversy: Why one size doesn’t fit all and why we need observational studies, case histories, and even anecdotes if we are to have personalized medicine

by Norman Doidge
What Hasidic Communities Can Teach Us About Fighting the Coronavirus

For Hasidic residents of Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, having a doctor who understands their culture can be a matter of life and death—especially in the age of COVID-19

by Eli Reiter
Diabetes, the Jewish Disease

Did turn-of-the-century Jews suffer disproportionately from diabetes, or was the early research anti-Semitic? An excerpt from a new history.

by Arleen Marcia Tuchman
Human Sacrifice and the Digital Business Model

Debates over free speech ignore the deeper problem: The tech monopolies that control social media have built their profit model on burnt offerings to the digital platform god

by Geoff Shullenberger
Plague as Punishment

On the eve of Tisha B’Av, a rumination on how we experience our worst misfortunes as punishments, and how some move from that to self-punishment and then to punishing others

by Norman Doidge
Will Fast, Cheap, and Plentiful Energy Be a Legacy of Los Alamos?

The atomic bombing over Japan 75 years ago today marked the beginning of an era we are only now fully coming into

by Khaled Talaat
Vera Rubin, Astronomer

The influential Jewish scientist, who would have been 92 today, now has an observatory named after her

by John Tuttle
Koshering Your IVF Embryo

How a ‘mashgicha’ religious fertility supervisor watches over lab eggs and sperm to make sure there are no mix-ups

by Amy Klein
Google Censorship Is a Danger to Public Health

The monopoly platform’s new policy of disappearing documents at odds with the expert opinion of the moment is both sinister and stupid

by Jacob Siegel
The Science of Risk

Who knows best how to avoid harm?

by Steven Landsburg
Viral Math

For hundreds of years, mathematical epidemiology has helped us understand how diseases spread and what treatments will be effective against them

by Fred Brauer
Do Jews Carry Trauma in Our Genes? A Conversation With Rachel Yehuda.

by David Samuels
→︎
Up next
Yom Kippur
Sundown: 10:44 PM
4 days, 2 hours, 44 minutes until sundown

What is Yom Kippur? Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is when Jews fast and ask forgiveness for the sins they committed in the past year and for ones they’ll inadvertently commit in the new year to come.

When is Yom Kippur? In 2020, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sunday, September 27, ending at sundown on Monday, September 28.

What's it all about? Yom Kippur is the most awesome of all Jewish holidays. We mean that literally: The very last of the Days of Awe, the 10-day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur marks the sealing of the Book of Life and with it our fates for the coming year. Jews—even some who cheerfully ignore other holidays—fast, repent, confess, and do their best to unload themselves of their sins and get on the Almighty’s merciful side. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of the seventh month.

Any dos and don'ts? The Mishnah, in tractate Yoma 8:1, is very clear on the don’ts: no eating or drinking. No wearing leather shoes. No bathing. No anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions. And no sex. The Bible itself, interestingly, mentions nothing about these prohibitions. Leviticus 23 only forbids us from doing work and tells us to afflict our souls, not our bodies. After the destruction of the Temple, the exile from Zion, and the writing of the Talmud, the holiday’s focus shifted from the High Priest and his purification rituals to the responsibility of each and every Jew to atone for his or her own sins. And while the connection between a gurgling stomach and a reflective mind may be lost on some, it is worth noticing that Yom Kippur is the only fast day on the Jewish calendar that is not observed in commemoration of some historical tragedy, but rather designed purely to allow us to take leave of earthly distractions and focus on our sinful souls. On the do side, it’s customary to wear white to symbolize one’s purity. To the same end, many Orthodox men dip in the mikveh the day before Yom Kippur for extra cleansing, which is probably not a bad idea given the prohibition on baths.

The holiday’s liturgical highlight is perhaps the most fascinating, controversial, and thrilling of all Jewish prayers, the Kol Nidre, which is recited to usher in Yom Kippur. Aramaic for “all vows,” Kol Nidre releases those who recite it from all of the vows they will make from the current Yom Kippur service until the same service in the next year. (This, by the way, wasn’t always the case: It was Rashi’s son-in-law, Rabbi Meir Ben Samuel, who changed the prayer from the past to the future tense, wishing to stress that its potency was not in retroactively releasing us from our past vows, but rather from future ones, a much more powerful proposition.) It, too, has its beginnings in ancient Israel, where the making of vows was so much the trend that the Torah made a point of warning people against making God a promise they couldn’t keep: “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God,” says Deuteronomy 23, “thou shalt not be slack to pay it; for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee.” What, however, of those who made a vow and couldn’t keep it? They required a special rite of absolution freeing them from their word. Such a vow—called hattarat nedarim, or the undoing of vows—finally came into being. The other major prayer is the Ne’ilah. Hebrew for locking, it is recited at the end of Yom Kippur and concludes with a long blowing of the shofar. With this, tradition has it, the Gates of Heaven are locked, our opportunity to atone over, and our fate determined.

Learn more about Yom Kippur →︎
Sukkot
October 2, 2020Sundown: 10:36 PM
Shemini Atzeret Simchat Torah
October 9, 2020Sundown: 10:24 PM
Hanukkah
December 10, 2020Sundown: 9:29 PM
Christmas
December 25, 2020Sundown: 9:34 PM
Tu B’Shevat
January 27, 2021Sundown: 10:08 PM
Purim
February 26, 2021Sundown: 10:43 PM
Passover
March 27, 2021Sundown: 11:19 PM
Shavuot
May 17, 2021Sundown: 12:18 AM
Tisha B’Av
July 18, 2021Sundown: 12:31 AM
Rosh Hashanah
September 6, 2021Sundown: 10:59 PM
Illustration: Tablet Magazine

Nobody Understands Democracy Anymore

A wave of recent books warning about a ‘crisis of democracy’ reveals that even our experts are confused about how democracies actually work

by
Shany Mor
August 13, 2019
Illustration: Tablet Magazine

Book after book in recent years has alerted us—as if we couldn’t tell by reading the news and absorbing the panicked media—that democracy is in crisis. Did it start with Trump or with Brexit? In Europe or the U.S.? The diagnosis varies among authors of different backgrounds and political persuasions, as do their prescriptions on what to do now. Not all of the books even share the premise that the loss of democracy is such a bad thing—at least one recent work argues that the real crisis was a democratic surplus.

What the books have in common, beyond their shared subject matter, is a common confusion over what democracy actually is. This confusion about the differences between democracy’s complementary functions like lawmaking and voting is, in its own way, rather illuminating, as the shared shortcoming in the books suggests a broader breakdown in democratic understanding that helped engender the very crisis they were written to address.

Probably the best, and certainly the most talked about entry in the “crisis of democracy” catalogue, is Yascha Mounk’s The People vs. Democracy.

Mounk was, at the time of the book’s release, a Harvard lecturer, and his well-timed tome has catapulted him into the world of celebrity academics. This clearly came as no surprise to his publishers at Harvard University Press, who put the book out with no fewer than four gushing blurbs from an exhaustive array of celebrity intellectuals ranging all the way from a Harvard AB (Dani Rodrik), a Harvard Ph.D. (Francis Fukuyama), a Harvard JD (Anne-Marie Slaughter), and all the way to a current Harvard professor (Michael Sandel).

The book is organized into three parts. The first lays out the “crisis of liberal democracy,” the second endeavors to explain the origins of the crisis, and the third proposes a set of remedies that are remarkably moderate in scope relative to the severity of the crisis outlined in Part 1. Though Mounk denies it throughout, his book is clearly informed by a certain nostalgia for the postwar consensus of strong but limited liberal tolerance, a welfare state undergirded by a broad social solidarity, and a deference for cultural and political elites enforced by shared media that were occasionally publicly owned and nearly always publicly minded.

It is the first part of the book that contains the most original and the most compelling argument, and it is this argument that has received the most attention. Mounk identifies two long-term trends in the practice of democracy that have the same theoretical point of departure, namely the decoupling of liberalism from democracy. First there is the much-ballyhooed rise of “illiberal democracy.” What’s nice about this term is that it is more or less understood by everyone, and is used by both political theorists and everyday commentators to mean the same thing. Even better, it is mostly free of judgment. People like Mounk who are terribly worried about illiberal democracy call it that, while Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban uses the exact same term to champion his own political vision.

The second trend that has Mounk’s attention is the mirror image of illiberal democracy. “Undemocratic liberalism,” in addition to being less catchy also lacks the obvious tie-in with the twin electoral traumas of 2016 in the U.S. and U.K. or with the fashionable concern with rising populism, whatever that term is supposed to mean now. 

The book’s title (The People vs. Democracy) and it’s even more dramatic self-helpy subtitle (Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It) reference only one of the two trends. In the Trump-Corbyn era that’s clearly good marketing, but it’s also an injustice to a book and a scholar far more sophisticated than the cover lets on.

When Mounk peers out at the state of advanced democracies today, he sees a rising tide of both illiberal democracy and undemocratic liberalism—and, perhaps most worryingly, how each trend feeds off and then fortifies the other. This is Mounk’s greatest insight and his fundamental contribution to the conversation on contemporary democracy.

But the elegance of the argument gets the best of him, occasionally. Under illiberal democracy he includes phenomena such as populism, xenophobia, majoritarianism, and attacks on the press. His enumeration of the characteristics of undemocratic liberalism starts out strong, including things like judicial review and global civil society. But then it veers off into some sociological observations about political elites which, while cogent and mostly accurate, don’t seem to be particularly “liberal” problems. Finally, still under the rubric of undemocratic liberalism, Mounk gets to the perversions of money and corruption in politics. This, too, is undeniably important and clearly “undemocratic” about this, but I have no idea what precisely is “liberal.”

There’s a beauty to an academic hypothesis built on two contrary macrotrends occurring simultaneously, but not everything fits gracefully into Mounk’s categories, and he appears, at times, reluctant to rework his organizational concepts to accommodate realities. The distortion of big money in politics is real, but it’s not really a case of illiberal democracy or of undemocratic liberalism. A more analytically robust presentation might lose some of the elegance, but that is a price worth paying.

The same is true of the recurring two-by-two matrix which is supposed to serve as a handy visual aid but only ends up obfuscating. As an illustration of how liberalism and democracy are conceptually separate, a matrix with each concept on a separate axis could be helpful (though arguably unnecessary). Where things get tricky is that each box in the matrix has the name of a country (or even the European Union) in it.

This all seems a bit shallow in comparison to the more careful argument that the text of the book is advancing. The problem with advanced democracy in the early 21st century is not that we are becoming too much like Poland or Canada or Switzerland (or some superficial stereotype of Poland or Canada or Switzerland). It is, rather, that certain putatively democratic forces are undermining the rule of law and at the same time certain putatively liberal forces are undermining popular sovereignty. This confluence of reinforcements manifests itself differently, to be sure, in Warsaw than in Brussels. But the subtlety of the argument, and the trap the status quo lays for democracy, is contradicted by a visual aid that ignores or even contradicts the thesis of the book.

The rest of the book is dedicated to explaining the origins of the democratic crisis, which Mounk locates in the rise of social media, economic stagnation in general and social inequality in particular, and the growth of identity politics. All these trends are noteworthy (if not particularly earth shattering), but where we place them chronologically will determine how we separate cause and effect. The economic stagnation chapter, by far the book’s shortest, is a familiar lament about the decline of the social democratic order that, whether it went under the name New Deal or Postwar Settlement, underpinned mid-20th-century social solidarity. At times Mounk presents his views on these issues as controversial or daring, but in fact they are fairly conventional and likely shared by most of his readers.

In Mounk’s analysis, the rupture in news-consumption habits that precipitated the democratic crisis begins with the rise in social media. This, however, may be the wrong framework. Clearly, social media and the internet have wrought profound changes in how we consume news and interact with current events, but they may still have been less harmful to democratic norms than the privatization of broadcast news and the rise of cable television that occurred decades earlier. Until the early 1990s, most television in the advanced democracies was publicly owned and publicly minded. Even in the U.S., the three main networks, while owned by private corporations, operated as civic-minded institutions, with news divisions often losing money (before remote controls this made sense as it drove viewers into more profitable programming after the news) and political content regulated by “equal time” provisions of the FCC.

It seems like a small point, but it’s not at all. Surely all these changes had an impact and hunting for one inflection point—one year that supposedly “changed” our media world—is a kind of vanity. Except that if all that matters is Twitter and Facebook, then economic stagnation and new media are distinct problems to be understood separately and remedied separately. But if it was privatization and cable television that changed our relationship to the news and opinion formation, then maybe the media shift isn’t coincidental to the socio-economic changes of the last 40 years, because the inflection points on both trend lines are roughly the same. Maybe both outcomes are outgrowths of the same across-the-board undermining of the foundations of social solidarity. Privatizing media and eliminating gatekeepers went hand in hand with the anti-regulation market boosterism known on the right as libertarianism and on the left as neoliberalism that provided an ideological justification for growing income inequality and social self-segregation. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to put the rise of “identity” politics under that rubric too.

Our collective complacency about the well-being of our fellow citizens is just part of our complacency about our democracies. Perhaps seeing our institutions threatened so openly as we have recently will be the jolt we need to rise to their defense. Yascha Mounk passionately hopes so, and I hope he is right.

But not everyone shares such hopes, and that includes at least one person among the handful publishing hot new takes on democracy. The most provocative and entertaining of this lot is without a doubt Georgetown professor Jason Brennan. His book, the pithily titled Against Democracy, contains not a single reference to Trump or Brexit, as it was published just before all that unpleasantness supercharged the conversation on democracy. Still, it’s safe to assume that nothing about those electoral traumas (or the ones that followed) has driven Brennan to rethink any of his conclusions.

Democracy, for Brennan, is something of a tragedy. It asks people who are ignorant, misinformed, impulsive, and shortsighted to make fateful public decisions. It doesn’t actually empower people and doesn’t solve conflicts. If anything, it makes us hate each other more. These are bold and unfashionable claims but Brennan backs them up with a wealth of survey data and cognitive psychology.

The key word running through all the various nuances of Brennan’s argument is “competence.” Voters lack competence to make political decisions, but citizens are entitled to something called “competent government.”

But is any of this what democracy is about? Brennan never distinguishes between different kinds of competence. His book is full of amusing examples and hypothetical situations to illustrate his point. But it’s never clear in his examples if his arguments are about people as citizens, or authorized decision-makers as political actors, or institutions as such. He switches from masses to elites as the examples suit him. The book never adequately differentiates the competence to make important public decisions from the competence to participate in an election, but these surely are not the same skill set.

There is an elementary distinction between democracy as a regime type or a social arrangement and democracy as the act of voting, but Brennan treats these two radically different (if occasionally coincident) practices and their different deficiencies, as interchangeable where it suits his argument. We might ask, for example, why nine Supreme Court justices vote on a decision. Is 5-4 really any way to make such essential interpretive decisions? Maybe they should deliberate to unanimity or be allowed to bundle unrelated decisions or, conversely, build majority coalitions for parts of decisions taken separately. All of these possibilities touch on democratic proceduralism but they do not fundamentally call into question democracy as a political practice. The rules of the Supreme Court could change in any number of ways but the underlying reality would remain that critical authority invested in unelected and unrepresentative judges.

The extent to which citizens are competent to participate in general elections and to have their votes equally counted is a different discussion from how Supreme Court justices assemble a majority. Especially since the public at large is so rarely asked to actually decide on anything; it usually just appoints people by means of election.

Voting is not the same as democracy. Ruling is not the same as electing. Competence is not the same as suffrage. Governing is not the same as lawmaking. And appointing, even by election, is not the same as representing. Yet, throughout his book, Brennan continually conflates or elides these differences. The last two are not unique to him. Mounk, too, never makes any allowance for the difference between public decision-making on routine everyday matters on the one hand, and the rather unique form of public decision-making that creates general norms on the other hand. Governments aren’t empowered to do whatever they see fit, just as the people at large in a functioning democracy are not. They are there to apply general norms to specific policy problems. To give just one dramatic example of the difference, the process for adding a new amendment to the constitution is considerably more difficult and involved than that which is necessary to pass new noise regulations in a public space. That governments and societies operate in conditions of law—even laws that are subject to change and revision—is a fundamental aspect of modern statehood that can’t just be chalked up to a straitened category like “undemocratic liberalism.”

And if we are to understand what is special about law as such, we’ll need to understand what is special about the representative assemblies where laws are made. But this too barely features in Mounk and Brennan or any of the other contemporary discussions of democracy. Representation is rarely mentioned, and even then only as a practical convenience. No distinction is made between the process of appointing someone to a position of authority via election and sending someone on behalf of a voting public to a large plural body where he or she will deliberate and bargain and ultimately legislate (to say nothing of oversee the same authorized figures who are charged with governing).

No theoretical engagement with democracy is complete without a starring role for both law and representation, yet both are absent from all four books under review here and from nearly all the rest I have encountered.

It’s a deficiency that slips past the boundaries of political theory. Perhaps we have lost the capacity for thinking about the element of lawmaking in a representative assembly in our popular conceptions of democracy. It’s an alarming loss but recognizing it illuminates the source of some overwrought concerns as well as to some poorly thought out institutional changes.

What happens when we lose this fundamental understanding of how democracy operates and what it is supposed to do? We might stop worrying about what laws can and can’t do. We might stop thinking of governments as complicated corporate entities that mix varying levels of expertise and accountability in their day-to-day operations, and we might forget that legislative assemblies are places where ritualized argument and collective decision-making on binding general norms take place. We might instead reduce our political lives to loud, sloganeering entertainment, and take complex fateful matters directly to the public for heedless one-off votes as though institutions, norms, negotiations, and compromise all have no place in politics. We might, in short, embark on something that would look like former Prime Minister David Cameron’s wild adventure with British democracy.

Like every reckless gambler, Cameron started small and took the absence of immediate failure as a sign that he should keep raising the stakes. He unleashed on the British public three referendums in the space of five years each of which had the potential of upending the British constitution in dramatic fashion. Each vote arose as a way to appease a coalition partner or quell a potential internal schism. When, in 2011, voters rejected the Alternative Vote electoral reform referendum to change the rules for electing the House of Commons, Cameron was emboldened to try a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. When that prospect was rejected as well, Cameron put all his chips on the Brexit referendum.

Had he succeeded a third time in using a sloppily worded and hastily crafted referendum to tamp down a noisy domestic insurgency, Cameron might have bought the British establishment, including his own Conservative Party, a decade or more of quiet. Or maybe he would have kept gambling and held a referendum on the monarchy or nuclear disarmament or disestablishment of the Church of England or a switch to a presidential regime. We’ll never know.

Nor, thankfully, will we know quite how risky the Scottish referendum was. A shift of 5% in voter preferences would have given Scottish independence a majority, rending the union with no clear roadmap. The U.K. would have committed itself to redrawing its borders and reconfiguring all of its international defense and treaty and trade relations based on a vote in a referendum in which 91% of U.K. citizens (those residing in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) were ineligible to participate—and where, weirdly, Scottish 16-year-olds did have the vote. It’s not the case that the Scottish government and the U.K. government negotiated a treaty for independence or federalism or something in between and then brought it to the voters for approval. It would have been, like Brexit, a binding resolution to do something drastic where no one really knows what that something is.

Instead Britain is tearing itself apart over the result of an equally ill-considered referendum, and every option from here on out is bad. Ignoring the result would be an assault against the people’s will. A new referendum is almost as insulting, and none of the people proposing such a course of action can agree on how to word it or how many options there should be (approve the deal, leave without a deal, remain after all, etc.). Crashing out would be an economic disaster. A soft departure from the EU satisfies no one, as it would necessarily involve the worst aspects of both remaining and leaving with the benefits of neither. And negotiation is impossible when Britain self-declared endgame leaves it with no leverage. Government ministers pursue a policy they know is wrong, opposed by an opposition just as committed to that disastrous policy. Forty-eight percent of the public may have opposed Brexit in the referendum, but that voice has very few options to express itself in parliamentary elections. How did we get to this?

The Brexit referendum, in the view of Cambridge politics professor David Runciman, shows “how easily the popular demand for more democracy can end up having the opposite effect.” His new book, How Democracy Ends, is the only one of the recent crop to take institutions and not just procedures seriously. But even Runciman’s work never seriously engages with the twin problems of law and representation—the latter a particularly disappointing oversight as he co-authored a short book on the topic in 2008.

It is a fun read, though, avoiding the alarmism that generally characterizes the genre. The exclamation marks on the chapter titles (“Coup!” “Catastrophe!” “Technological Takeover”) are the principal reminders that the issues at stake are deadly serious.

Runciman never resists the temptation to make clever counterintuitive claims, but most of these are then backed up with reasonably plausible arguments. He argues, for example, that Trump’s electoral victory should be seen as a vote of confidence in the institutions of the American constitution because, if anyone was genuinely worried that Trump could actually get his way he could never have assembled a winning coalition. Either there is a “safety net … or the whole thing is a sham.” Either way, the risks are smaller than advertised.

While everyone else is implicitly focusing their trepidation on comparisons with the 1930s, Runciman asks us to look back even further to the golden age of populist democracy in the 1890s. It was a decade of conspiracy theories, unpopular wars, immigration panic, and financial crashes that eventually gave way to a decade of democratic reform. In this reading of history, elected politicians were forced to confront and assimilate populist anger by expanding the franchise and erecting the rudiments of the welfare state. Populists came close to undermining constitutional government in the U.S. and France (and possibly Britain, too), but were beaten back when their anger was challenged into a progressive agenda. It’s one possible outcome, but clearly not the only one.

Runciman begins his book at the H-hour of today’s democratic crisis, high noon on Jan. 20, 2017, with the inauguration of President Trump. But his sweep is broad as he takes us through all the conceivable ways democracy might (and maybe even should) end, whether by coup, catastrophe, or unplanned consequence of technology. Like Mounk, he sometimes adheres too rigidly to his own categories, and the metaphor of democracy’s “midlife crisis” is fun the first time the reader encounters it, but loses some of its spark with each repeated use.

If democracy is having a midlife crisis, then John Dunn didn’t wait for the flashy sports car and hair piece to appear before diagnosing it. Dunn, an emeritus professor of political theory at Cambridge, adapted a lecture series he gave at Yale into a short and alarming book on democracy back in 2014. If that seems hopelessly out of date, think again. Almost everything about our present crisis is spelled out patiently and urgently in Dunn’s Democracy: A History.

Where the other books want us to look at the new authoritarians in the democratic countries, Dunn broadens his geographical and historical scope. If we want to unpack the connection between democracy and good government—“happy accident” or “magic formula”—we need to look at evolving institutional practices in decidedly nondemocratic China and in Asia’s democratic behemoth India.

Dunn’s book is very much a pre-2016 work, but a post-2011 one, too. His concerns about democracy’s direction don’t have the bitterness of political disappointment and aren’t obsessively steeped in the latest tweets or crises. Dunn fretted about democracy before it was cool. Though China and India get a lot of attention in the book, it is the Arab Spring, only casually mentioned, which casts a dark shadow that lingers over nearly every page.

Dunn asks us to decouple our notions of good government and democracy and consider that much of what we positively attribute to democracy may be little more than a historical coincidence, bound in place and time.

His is an elite project with no catchy subtitles or mass audience in mind. His anger, in the book’s final pages, is not directed at Twitter but at universities. It’s the universities, in Dunn’s reckoning, that have failed to ask the difficult questions about our political arrangements and their evolution.

If that is the case, as I strongly believe it to be, then maybe our trauma as scholars of democracy isn’t 2016 or even 2011, it’s 1989 when the Cold War ended. A shocking failure against the Soviet Union might have caused some soul-searching but, instead, success bred a smug complacency that dulled any interest in democracy and set political theorists off on a hundred other pursuits (global justice and rights being the biggest). It all seemed so easy at the time but history has made a mockery of such pretensions. By the early ’90s, Liberal democracy was destined to take over the whole world, but in reality failed to take hold in most of the post-Soviet space, while the few central European success stories today constitute the go-to examples of illiberalism riding into power on democratic horses.

When regimes fell or reformed in other theaters, there were very few political theorists on hand to offer lessons on what to avoid. To take perhaps the most glaring example, no one seems to have seen fit to warn of the dangers of a presidential regime as it careened toward its first free election. The idea of handing over all executive power to a party that wins just over half the votes in a country almost evenly split between ardent supporters of Islamist fundamentalism and terrified opponents of it would have been bad enough in a country that had a tradition of repeated electoral contests. In a country that had none, this was a guarantee that the first election would be the last.

Nor were we as alert as we should have been to the insidious encirclement of our best practices in the established liberal democracies, in particular the hollowing out of the powers of representative assemblies and the concomitant rise of executive and judiciary power. Without a firm grasp on what laws are supposed to do and what governments are supposed to do (not the same thing!) we couldn’t see the problem with handing legislative prerogatives to civil society and international institutions and subjecting crucial public decision-making to increasingly authoritarian leaders or the frenzies of privately mobilized public passions.

Political thinkers have come to see governance as yet another market mechanism where preferences can be aggregated and efficient outcomes determined. If people disagree, they must be ill-informed or prejudiced. But disagreement is a fundamental condition—the fundamental condition—of politics. And the most important practice of democracy isn’t voting, but rather proscribing norms for the habit of legitimate disagreement. Representative assemblies, with their large numbers of diverse members and their ritualized speech acts and decision-making rules engender these habits, particularly when their proceedings and decisions are at the center of public attention. Twitter can’t replace that; cable news can’t replace that; referendums can’t replace that; liberal high courts, international organizations, pious human rights groups, and the free market can’t replace that; and authoritarian populists certainly can’t replace that.

To measure democracy against some Athenian ideal, or to criticize it in those terms, is to miss the point. We are not Athenians, not because we can’t be, but because we don’t want to be. Our smartphones, our social media apps, our almost unlimited access to information and platforms have all given us the means to subject our politics to a daily public decision-making process free of all gatekeepers and constraints. And yet we still, most of us at least, prefer to live under the rule of laws. We prefer it even as we lose our grip on the democratic institutions that have historically yoked the most powerful members of society to the same laws that the rest of us must abide. Law can’t just be a nondemocratic means for imposing a liberal agenda, if only because it will eventually become a nondemocratic means for imposing an illiberal agenda.

As long as our discussion of democracy treats representation as though it were some kind of rounding error or approximation of the real thing, and law as though it were just another policy outcome, we won’t have a fully formed sense of what this democracy thing really is—or, as the subtitle of Mounk’s book would have, how to save it.

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Shany Mor is an Associate Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College and a Research Fellow at the Chaikin Center for Geostrategy at the University of Haifa. He served as a Director for Foreign Policy on the Israeli National Security Council.