Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

By Robert Michels; Cedar Paul et al. | Go to book overview
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Author's Preface

MANY OF the most important problems of social life, though their causes have from the first been inherent in human psychology, have originated during the last hundred and fifty years; and even in so far as they have been handed down to us from an earlier epoch, they have of late come to press more urgently, have acquired a more precise formulation, and have gained fresh significance. Many of our leading minds have gladly devoted the best energies of their lives to attempts towards solving these problems. The so-called principle of nationality was discovered for the solution of the racial and linguistic problem which, unsolved, has continually threatened Europe with war and the majority of individual states with revolution. In the economic sphere, the social problem threatens the peace of the world even more seriously than do questions of nationality, and here "the labourer's right to the full produce of his labour" has become the rallying cry. Finally, the principle of self-government, the corner-stone of democracy, has come to be regarded as furnishing a solution of the problem of nationality, for the principle of nationality entails in practical working the acceptance of the idea of popular government. Now, experience has shown that not one of these solutions is as far- reaching in its effects as the respective discoverers imagined in the days of their first enthusiasm. The importance of the principle of nationality is undeniable, and most of the national questions of western Europe can be and ought to be solved in accordance with this principle; but matters are complicated by geographical and strategical considerations, such as the difficulty of determining natural frontiers and the frequent need for the establishment of strategic frontiers; moreover, the principle of nationality cannot help us where nationalities can hardly be said to exist or where they are intertangled in inextricable confusion. As far as the economic problem is concerned, we have numerous solutions offered by the different schools of socialist thought, but the formula of the right to the whole produce of labour is one which can be comprehended more readily in the synthetic than in the analytic field; it is easy to formulate as a general principle and likely as such to command widespread sympathy, but it is exceedingly difficult to apply in actual practice. The present work aims at a critical discussion of the third question, the problem of democracy.

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Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy
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