To govern ourselves or not to? This is the existential question of politics. With the rise of distrust, alienation, and extremism, it is all the more difficult to secure democratic self-rule when neither those in power nor the general public seem dependable when it comes to making decisions that can transform our lives, for better or worse.
In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, Henry Tam explores what should be done to revive democracy. Presenting in a clear and accessible manner, he goes beyond the familiar ‘get the vote out’ ideas, to set out 9 key areas where reforms are necessary to ensure we can govern ourselves more effectively.
Against the suggestion that democracy has run its course, this book unpacks why democratic governance is indispensable and puts forward forty recommendations to help us avoid the twin threats of oppressive rule and debilitating chaos.
With a background in both academia and national and local politics Dr. Henry B. Tam is a writer, educator, and former policy head for civil renewal under the last Labour Government. He has been Director of the Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy, University of Cambridge; Lecturer on politics and government for WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) and the Civil Service College; and Visiting Professor, School of Lifelong Learning, Birkbeck, University of London.
Introduction: Democracy in distress
Part One: Has democracy a future?
Why we need democracy
Rethinking how we govern
Part Two: How to sustain democratic togetherness
Part Three: How to underpin democratic objectivity
Part Four: How to achieve democratic power balance
Conclusion: Learning to govern ourselves
“At a time when 42% of people entitled to vote in the UK did not do so, including 15% who did not even register, it is important to create more and better ways for people to participate in democratic decision making. Henry Tam’s erudite book will certainly aid the development of democratic practice.” Titus Alexander, founder, Democracy Matters
“Time to save Democracy is essential reading for all those concerned about the state of democracy today but even more important reading for the increasing numbers who take democracy for granted. Always compelling and challenging in its analysis of democracy, past and present, the book is also full of hope. However, this is no insubstantial optimism but rather an insightful and richly informed progressive agenda for developing democratic cooperation ... [It] provides a powerful and convincing manifesto for democracy at a time when we most need one.” Diane Reay, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge and Visiting Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science
“We cannot be complacent about the place of representative democracy in this country and across the west. The weaknesses of current models suggest that the turbulent politics and insecurities of the day may well overturn existing democratic arrangements. Henry Tam’s Time to Save Democracy offers a practical guide for those of us who wish to fulfil the goals of democracy as a framework for ‘collective self-governance’ at all levels of society, from community activists up to national politicians and civil servants. It should be read and acted on.” Stuart Weir, Founder, Charter88; and inaugural director, Democratic Audit, University of Essex.
"Henry Tam’s new book sets out strategies for developing and sustaining more democratic ways of relating to each other, rooted in more equal relationships of power. This is such a timely contribution to contemporary debates." Marjorie Mayo, Emeritus professor of Community Development, Goldsmiths, University of London
“A distinguished commentator on progressive politics, Henry Tam has written an indispensable book for political leaders and administrators who are seeking to fix the institutional mechanisms in their democratic societies. There seems to be no fundamental aspect of democratic governance that Tam does not fully understand. ‘Time to save democracy’ is an exhaustive treatment of its topic. This book has a keen sense of history and treats pressing problems of the day with incredible care and detail -- including 40 specific recommendations. It is a must read for everyone interested in saving democracies during a turbulent time.” David M. Anderson, formerly George Washington University
"This is a spirited, wide-ranging defence of democracy, and a call to arms for its renewal, from someone who has practised what he preaches in both government and civil society. In the best traditions of reasoned pluralism, readers will find much to debate and argue about in this book." Professor Nick Pearce, Director of Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath
“In Time to Save Democracy, Henry Tam reminds us of the importance of collaborative learning and the development of a critical mind set and their centrality in our pedagogical approaches. This is a call to action for anyone interested in lifelong learning and the critical links between adult education, civic engagement and democratic participation.”
Mel Lenehan, Principal, Fircroft College