Nation Reconciliation and Reconstruction

Resources for the Concerned Activist



The Activist In the Real World

Mr. and Mrs. Disraeli: A Strange Romance by Daisy Hay. It may be inevitable that the personal characteristics of most politicians are made difficult to assess, first because the politician may not want to reveal vulnerabilities, and second because those who do write about his or her personal characteristics may be motivated to villainize or to heroize the individual. Benjamin Disraeli is widely regarded as an exemplary politician, and the only flaw that writers seem to have highlighted is that he married for money. Even so, his marriage turned into a life-long love story. This book is structured around the loving relationship that formed over time, but along the way the reader is shown what Disraeli was up to in the hurly-burly of political life.

A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath, by Truong Nhu Tang is an autobiographical account of the life of a man who was attracted to the communism of Ho Chi Minh as an alternative to the injustices he perceived to exist under the rule of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. He eventually rose to high office after the end of the Vietnam War, yet he could not accept the injustices of the communist regime either. The man who had struggled his entire adult life to achieve a good life for the Vietnamese people ended his life in self-exile. In this book we have not the politics of neighborhood canvassing, political party barbeque's to meet the candidate, and get out the vote campaigns on election day, but the politics of insurrection and its aftermath. (This book was originally published in 1985 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. It s still in print as a Vintage Books paperback.)

Mandela: The Authorized Biography,
by Anthony Sampson, a study on "transforming the headstrong activist into the reflective and self-disciplined world statesman." Section 1 develops the idea that the state, and especially a democratically ruled state, is a dynamic system. In Section 2 the objective is to discover what works to enable someone to attract loyalty, to recruit people to a cause, and to cement their allegiance to a project that is designed to bring benefits to all of the people of that state for generations to come. It is fitting to begin this study of politics by learning the story of someone who broke the oppression by conquerors from abroad of an indigenous population and then acted powerfully to meld the two populations together. Study the path to national leadership of Nelson Mandela who was taught to fulfill the responsibilities of a tribal chief as a young person, was educated in the best schools his family could get him into, and then was further educated and tempered by a challenging life in the real world that even included decades of imprisonment and self-education—all of which he turned to good advantage.

The Theoretical or Abstract Side of Politics

The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey
by Michael Huemer [External Reviews]

On Politics: A History of Political Thought from Herodotus to the Present by Paul James and Nevzat Soguk. [External Reviews]

Evolution of Cooperation
by Robert Axelrod [External Reviews]

Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson [External Reviews]

Lecture session at the Free University of Tiblisi with Ghia Nodia, Erik Jensen and Francis Fukuyama. State Building and Democracy.  The lectures center around issues of democracy and control, how most governments get a well-functioning hierarchical system of government administration and control, and only later manage to democratize the institution, whereas in some countries, such as the United States, democracy is established first, administrative positions are determined by patronage, and only relatively late in the game does the need for more effective government cause the development of a merit-based bureaucracy.

Working session of the  Stanford Center on Democracy, Development, and The Rule of Law featuring a 2013 lecture by Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama on "Making Democracy Deliver." One key idea is, "It's not the business plan, it's the execution," which is then applied to governments succeeding in executing their plans.

Further recommendations:

On Politics, Max Weber

All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren (This is a novel about a small time lawyer who becomes governor of his state.  It is widely thought to be based on the life and times of Huey Long.)

All the President's Men, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

Arthashastra, by Kautilya 

Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York, by Kenneth D. Ackerman

Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders, by Garry Wills

Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville

Democracy: A Very Short Introduction by Bernard Crick

Developments in British Politics, France, America etc., by various authors

Discourses, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

How  to Run for Local Office: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide that Will Take  You Through the Entire Process of Running and Winning a Local Election, by Robert Thomas and Doug Gowen

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

My Experiments with Truth, by M. K. Gandhi

On Government, by Cicero

Politics, by David Runciman, 2014,

Origins of Political Order,  by Francis Fukuyama

Prince,  by Machiavelli

Republic, by Plato

Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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This page was last revised on 15 August 2016.