Democracy: A Short, Analytical History

Democracy: A Short, Analytical History

Democracy: A Short, Analytical History

Democracy: A Short, Analytical History


A highly accessible presentation of the democratic experience in modern Western civilization. The book offers definitions of the term "democracy", along with the various interpretations used over the past two centuries. Comprehensive in scope, it records all the criticisms and is with the conditions that are necessary for it to exist.


"Of the governing tendencies of the modern world by far the most important is the spread of democracy," historian H.A.L. Fisher once observed. It is possible to make this claim for other general processes, such as capitalism, secularization, rationalization, urbanization, the growth of science and technology, but Fisher's point was certainly well taken.

It is surprising how little study has been made of democratization, in comparison with the other processes. Some years ago a historian of political thought remarked on the scarcity of scholarly studies of democratic ideas. If the situation has improved since then, works of synthesis are still rare. An authoritative history of democratic thought in western civilization, one that gives adequate attention to the dialectic of thought and action, seems to be lacking. Such a work would examine how the concept of democracy came into being, entered into contact with the real world, enriched or changed its meaning, was absorbed by various groups and systems, aroused utopian hopes or suffered cruel disenchantment.

The Word and Its Usage

The initial problem facing any student of democracy is how to define the term. Democracy is a fuzzy term. The word is all around us; it is constantly used in the news media and everyday discourse to define our own culture and to shape our policies toward others, who are said to be delinquent if they are "undemocratic" and may even need to have this nebulous entity thrust upon them by force. Democracy continues to occupy large space in headlines: it triumphs over communism, is restored in Haiti, is hailed as the master principle of our age. One of the five goals for joint action by the United States and the European Union, proclaimed in December 1995, is "development of democracy throughout the world." It is presented as a . . .

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