This book takes the measure of democracy by exploring the past, the present
and the prospects of democratic societies, topics touched upon by Francis
Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, Amitai Etzioni, Fareed Zakaria among many others.
The author’s extensive extramural experience sets the book apart from most
academic treatises. Instead of focusing on a few aspects of contemporary
civilization, the author offers a catholic interpretation of the ways of the
world, which subsumes previous attempts to understand the constraints and
freedoms of our future.
The future of humanity is as ever precarious, dependent on our moral capital – a virtuous circle of democratic values, institutions and practices. The voluntary cooperation between tens or hundreds of millions of basically egotistical individuals in a democratic society is nothing short of the miraculous, and it should be no surprise that it does not always work. Democracy has failed repeatedly outside its core countries. When we move into the next phase of democratic development, our worst enemy will be complacency.
The Challenge of Democracy presents a penetrating analysis of the democratic predicament – the historic ties, the driving forces, the threats and opportunities. The personal recollections of the author enliven the text. He combines the different aspects of his subject matter into a coherent worldview, mapping out the dangers ahead. The book proffers both dependable charts and a moral compass for navigating a turbulent future. The outcome is in no way preordained, but depends on every one of us – our good will and sense of fair play.
Gustav von Hertzen is one of Finland’s grand old businessmen, a philosopher and an author; his main work is The Spirit of the Game (1993). He has been married since 1952 to Ulla von Hertzen, née Wuoristo. They have four children and twelve grandchildren.
As chief executive of Cultor Inc., von Hertzen transformed a local sugar company into the leading food and feed producer in Finland. Meanwhile, Cultor created dominant niche positions internationally by introducing innovative technologies and products in nutrition and biotechnology.
Gustav von Hertzen has served on numerous company boards in Finland and abroad. As chairman he was instrumental in launching a singularly successful joint venture with major investments in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. He has also taken on many prominent commissions of trust.
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The book is also available in Finnish and Swedish:
- Demokratian haaste (pdf)
- Demokratins utmaning (pdf)
In 1939-1940, Finland single-handed kept the mighty Soviet Union at bay; the
aggressor had to content itself with a partial victory. Finland survived and
pulled through the war and the vicissitudes of the post-war period, avoiding
occupation and with an intact democratic system. Since then Finland has become a
prosperous member of the European Union.
As a place to do business, Finland has regularly been rated at or near the top in international rankings. The same holds for lack of corruption and level of education. This cannot be a coincidence. There are important lessons that Europe and the rest of the world can learn from Finland.
Finland spends a lot on education, from primary school to the university level. In worldwide comparisons, Finnish schoolchildren cluster at the top in reading, mathematics and natural sciences. Despite a comprehensive health service and extensive social welfare, taxes are reasonable and have been consistently reduced.
High technology flourishes and Finland has one of the highest ratios of R&D expenditure in relation to BNP. Nokia is the flagship of Finnish industry with its spectacular expansion in mobile phones. Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux, is another exponent of Finnish entrepreneurship.