Switzerland in Perspective

Switzerland in Perspective

Switzerland in Perspective

Switzerland in Perspective

Excerpt

Books on Switzerland usually fall into two clearly defined categories. Either they describe the political institutions of the country but have little or nothing to say of its political life--which is a very different proposition--or else they are tourist books, describing the scenery, frequently relating details of personal experience, offering useful hints or warnings to the discerning traveller, but in the course of all this saying not a word about the place tourism holds in Switzerland's own life.

Though the present book can likewise be called descriptive, its purpose is different. In France a sharp distinction is usually drawn between le pays légal and le pays réel--the nation as it is supposed to be in theory and as it is in actual practice. There is probably no country where this difference is more profound than in Switzerland. Yet, for some strange reason, the fact seems to have eluded most of the authors who have written on Swiss politics or economics. A tendency to concentrate on the constitutional peculiarities of the Confederation, coupled with all too ready an acceptance of the attractive theory that in its daily conduct the nation is being guided by the moral principles on which this Confederation was founded, have led to a number of serious misconceptions.

I have attempted to show the realities of Switzerland's living and complicated democracy, instead of drawing the traditional and highly misleading abstract picture. Both in the past and in modern times the people of Switzerland have revealed such a wide range of outstanding qualities and have achieved so much that they can afford minute examination without distortion or suppression. Even in the Middle Ages, when the ancient cantons enjoyed freedom and democracy at home but ruled their dependencies in a way that was neither free nor democratic, they did not abuse their power to the same extent as most other states or sovereigns did. It is profoundly significant that these dependencies never wanted to break away from their Swiss . . .

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