European Political Thought, 1815-1989

By Spencer M. Di Scala; Salvo Mastellone | Go to book overview

15
OPPOSING THE ONE-PARTY STATE

As might be expected, after World War I, a tendency toward justification of authoritarian regimes appeared also among liberals and democrats. In all European countries the parliamentary system seemed to falter when confronted by the social and economic problems generated by the war and the peace settlement. Only partial and temporary solutions seemed forthcoming at a time when people expected dramatic solutions. This situation led to criticism from both right and left that parliaments were weak and inefficient.


LOSS OF FAITH

Many who wrote about the decline of parliament and the decadence of the multiparty system seemed more interested in developments within the new one-party systems rather than reforming the parliamentary system. This attitude helps to explain why the writings of some noted philosophers failed to have the expected impact.

This was the case of Max Weber's Political Writings ( 1921), published a year after his death, which were greeted with a profound silence. These essays lucidly defended parliamentary democracy. While acknowledging the well-known defects of the parliamentary system, Weber attributed to the multiparty order the task of preventing the establishment of an authoritarian state. He admitted that some sincere democrats hated parliamentary procedures and mechanisms but pointed out that democracies without parliaments produced authoritarian power without limits. Moreover, authoritarian systems are vulnerable to the fall of a charismatic leader, which leads to internal catastrophes. In contrast, the effective participation in power of strong representative institutions ensures political continuity, constitutional guarantees, and the civil order. While the chief

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