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How resilient are Western democracies? Two new books have different answers and are enlightening in their different ways. The authors, Runciman and Stanley, characterise the times in which we live in such starkly different terms doesn’t mean that one of them must be right and the other utterly wrong. That is precisely the temptation that both authors want us to resist. If democracy is to not just persist but thrive, all of us must remain curious about the political spectacle and comfortable with opposing assessments of what is happening, why it is happening and what might happen next. The juxtaposition of these two gripping accounts of what is eating away at democracy as we know it is a good place to begin exercising that essential muscle.