My Review of Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century


“Intelligent governance[‘s]…chief aim is to seek a harmonious equilibrium in human affairs-between responsibility and personal choice, community and the individual, freedom and stability, well-being and well-behaving, humankind and nature, present and future-based on the wisdom of what has worked best when faced with the circumstances at hand.”

Here in the United States a constant refrain, at least in the part of the country I live in, has been a growing frustration with political grid-lock at the national level yet is also a frustration that is shared across my country and the rest of the world as well. Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels of the Nicolas Berggruen Institute offer their proposal for ending this gridlock and providing not just the United States but China and elsewhere with essential and intelligent governance with a new book Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East.

Published in 2012 by Polity Press, Intelligent Governance is rooted in the authors’ argument that “good governance must devolve power and involve citizens more meaningfully in ruling their communities while legitimizing the delegation of authority through decision-division to institutions that can capably manage the systemic links of integration.” (Emphasis the authors.) And it is rooted in the reality of stagnation in the West and an emerging China in the east.

Divided into nine chapters, Intelligent Governance, starts with an outline of several key questions in chapter one then on to a comparison of what they call “America’s Consumer Democracy verses China’s Modern Mandarinate” which they define, respectively as “a one-person-one-vote political system aimed at creating the greatest space for personal freedom and free markets in order to best enable the pursuit of happiness-more or less defined in our time as meeting the demand for short-term immediate gratification of the consumer culture,” and as one which “draws on the millennial heritage of pragmatic rule by learned and experienced elites-mandarins-based on merit, not by choice of the public.”

Then moving into chapters three and four, which I found to me the most interesting chapters of the book, they discuss the ‘hybrid possibilities’ between “liberal democratic democracy and meritocracy” as well as the challenges of governance in which the power of social media is clearly illustrated. Berggruen and and Gardels then enter into four chapters in which they lay out a template of intelligent governance and illustrate its application to the current state of affairs in California state government, the G-20, and Europe followed by a concluding chapter.

What I liked about the book was Berggruen and and Gardels’ acknowledgment of the serious issue of gridlock and short-term perspective in American politics which has contributed to the gridlock. I was also very much interested in their assessment of what appears to be an emerging Chinese return to a Confucian base of governance instead of the China Communist Party’s former emphasis on “class struggle.” But if their ‘template’ is for all governments then addressing the military as well as religiously led governments around the world needs to be a part of the discussion as well.

I rate this book a ‘good’ read.

Note: I received a copy of this book via Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.


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