The DNA of Democracy

Non-Fiction - Gov/Politics
416 Pages
Reviewed on 05/10/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

The DNA of Democracy by Richard C. Lyons is a wonderful book for readers interested in understanding the origins, evolution, and intrinsic nature of democracy and its nuances. The author takes readers through a historical journey that begins from the faint idea of democracy from the time of the pharaohs through ancient Greece to contemporary democracies. In this book, the author explores the foundations of democracy, examines prominent democracies in history, and presents the factors that threatened some of them and that enabled the success of others. In this work, readers find an in-depth study of governments and the very core of democracy. It raises the question: Is democracy really democratic?

Richard C. Lyons offers readers a clear definition of government and speaks about the different forms of governments and transitions to look at the history of democracy. In the opening pages he notes: “When we speak of government, we may speak of definitions of tyranny and oligarchy, monarchy and aristocracy, representative republics and democracies. We may speak of titles: of emperors, empresses, kings and queens, potentates, pharaohs, generals, dictators and presidents.” Deeply researched and filled with historical references, The DNA of Democracy offers a fresh perspective on the idea of democracy and valuable information that enables readers to understand the historical evolution of democracy, the challenges it has faced throughout history and what the future democracy may look like. It is a critical work that comes across as a vital reference to historians, students of political science and anyone interested in the art of governance. This book is intelligently written, well researched, and filled with fascinating ideas.

Judith Rook

Although his extensive bibliography is devoid of any scientific reference, Richard C. Lyons nevertheless titles his examination of democracy The DNA of Democracy. It is a curious omission because Lyons constructs an analogy between liberal democracy as the desired foundation of human society and the concept of DNA as the biological substructure of life. Perhaps he assumes that while his readers will have some understanding of genetics, they may not be quite so clear about the urge towards individual freedom which, he argues, has been carried in most human hearts from antiquity.

Once the analogy is drawn, Lyons presents two separate types of DNA: the “DNA of Freedom” and the “DNA of Tyranny”. Democracy is shown to be a reaction against “intolerable acts of tyranny”, and with this premise as his basic argument, Lyons embarks on an interesting, perhaps slightly selective, historical survey, stretching from the time of the pharaohs to the development of a highly individualistic American society—a society, Lyons points out, naturally given to the pursuit of freedom.

Although the analogy with genetics may not be entirely convincing, The DNA of Democracy is a very well written and energetic book. It may remind us of what is already known, but it does so in an attractive and engaging manner. In the second part of the presentation, the focus is directed exclusively on America, its early history and the growth of its social institutions. This could result in content which perhaps could be slightly difficult to get through, but Richard C. Lyons has the ability to infuse unusual vitality into his writing and presents the general reader with an enjoyable and stimulating experience.