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Democracy and Truth: A Short History

Narrated by: Jean Ann Douglass
Length: 6 hrs and 2 mins
Categories: History, American
4.5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Fake news", wild conspiracy theories, misleading claims, doctored photos, lies peddled as facts, facts dismissed as lies - citizens of democracies increasingly inhabit a public sphere teeming with competing claims and counterclaims, with no institution or person possessing the authority to settle basic disputes in a definitive way.

The problem may be novel in some of its details - including the role of today's political leaders, along with broadcast and digital media, in intensifying the epistemic anarchy - but the challenge of determining truth in a democratic world has a backstory. 

In this lively and illuminating book, historian Sophia Rosenfeld explores a long-standing and largely unspoken tension at the heart of democracy between the supposed wisdom of the crowd and the need for information to be vetted and evaluated by a learned elite made up of trusted experts.

She begins with an examination of the period prior to the 18th century Age of Revolution, where she uncovers the political and epistemological foundations of our democratic world. Subsequent chapters move from the Enlightenment to the rise of both populist and technocratic notions of democracy between the 19th and 20th centuries to the troubling trends - including the collapse of social trust - that have led to the rise of our post-truth public life. Rosenfeld concludes by offering suggestions for how to defend the idea of truth against the forces that would undermine it.

"It's a tribute to the quality of this pithy, illuminating book that one nonetheless ends it provoked and inspired, rather than dispirited." (The Guardian)

"Brilliantly lucid...few historians are better positioned to tell this story than Rosenfeld." (The Nation)

"An essential guide to finding the roots of our current predicament." (Lynn Hunt, author of History: Why It Matters)

©2019 University of Pennsylvania Press (P)2019 Redwood Audiobooks

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