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Victorian Critics of Democracy

Victorian Critics of Democracy: Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky

Benjamin Evans Lippincott
Copyright Date: 1938
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Victorian Critics of Democracy
    Book Description:

    “The cases for liberty, equality, and the dignity of the common man ... have rarely been stated with greater clarity and convincing moderation than in the present book.” --Nation “As a historian and analyst of ideas, Professor Lippencott examines the work of three Victorian ‘prophets,’ Carlyle, Rushkin, and Arnold, and of three ‘technical writers,’ James Stephen, Maine, and Lecky. As a defender of political and economic democracy, he undertakes a timely reply to [their] attacks upon the democratic ideal.” --Philosophical Review

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3622-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-5)

    Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, and Lecky were perhaps the most vigorous and distinguished critics of democracy in England in the nineteenth century. These men attacked, in varying degree, the liberal tradition which was at its zenith in the Victorian age; above all, they attacked middle-class democracy.

    When they first began to write, the middle class had established its claim to power; by the franchise act of 1832 the aristocracy had abdicated in favor of the men of industry and commerce. Henceforth the chief concern of the state was to maintain the rules not of a feudal economy but of...

    (pp. 6-53)

    Save for Rousseau, Marx, and Voltaire, Carlyle is perhaps unsurpassed in modern times as a political and social critic. Unlike Marx, he was not the chief intellectual source of a great change; nor was he, like Voltaire or Rousseau, a great leader in a great movement. He was not even, like Bentham, the founder of a school; if he had in his time what is known as a following, he had, apart from Ruskin, no important disciples. He contributed no new ideas to political and social reform; yet no political writer in nineteenth-century England was as widely read as he....

    (pp. 54-92)

    If Carlyle was the chief critic of the social effects of capitalism, Ruskin next to Marx was the chief critic of its principles. Unlike Marx, he did not use Hegelian dialectic as a weapon of assault; he had no Marxist conception of history; his criticism was seldom historical but almost always analytical, moral, and psychological. Nor did he use, as Marx did, a theory of the class struggle, though he thought that the exploited might one day rise against the tyranny of their masters. For him, as for Marx, the labor theory of value was the base on which he...

    (pp. 93-133)

    If Carlyle and Ruskin refreshed the moral insights of men but did little to shape their minds, Arnold neither shaped their minds nor refreshed their moral insights. He exerted little influence as a political and social writer; his age refused to take him seriously. If it did not ridicule him as inept, it brushed him lightly aside as inconsequential, or it thought of him simply as a wholesome irritant to prejudice. Frederick Harrison spoke for those who had only contempt when he referred to the man of culture in politics as “a well-preserved Ariel tripping from flower to flower.”¹ The...

    (pp. 134-166)

    Unlike Carlyle, Ruskin, and Arnold, Fitzjames Stephen was not of the blood of the prophet; he was capable neither of moving the minds of men nor of giving new significance to old ideas. His talent lay rather in a smashing criticism. He was the severest critic of the advanced democratic thought of the 1860’s and 70’s. Stephen found in his day a growing enthusiasm for what he called the “Religion of Humanity,” a creed of liberty, equality, fraternity —the belief, as he put it, that the human race has splendid destinies before it, and that the road to them is...

    (pp. 167-206)

    Maine was probably the most searching critic of democratic optimism in the Victorian era. Stephen, it will be remembered, was the critic of the advanced school of liberal thought of the nineteenth century, the school of John Stuart Mill. It was given to Maine to criticize not a philosophy of democracy, but democratic beliefs; where Stephen attacked the philosophy of “liberal emancipation,” Maine took issue with the claim that democracy was the harbinger of progress. With the liberal movement gaining power in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, with the bright outlook created by the passing of the Reform...

    (pp. 207-243)

    Lecky marks the close of the Victorian tradition of Burke.¹ HisDemocracy and Liberty, which was first published in 1896, is the last will and testament of an intellectual reaction that was founded largely on eighteenth-century ideas. Stephen and Maine had protested against the consolidation of political democracy; Lecky recognized its victory and turned to point out its disastrous consequences. Where Stephen and Maine had set their lance against democratic ideas, democratic dogma, and democratic confidence, Lecky set his against the implications of democracy. He saw political democracy moving toward an equalitarian state and beginning to direct its attack upon...

    (pp. 244-264)

    In the eyes of the critics of democracy Victorian society was in danger of disruption. It was, they held, a society without unity; it was divided against itself, divided into opposing classes of rich and poor. It was a society without guidance; the aristocracy failed to lead, and the middle class was giving way to the anarchy of democracy. The aristocracy no longer commanded respect; men no longer admitted that the virtue of the few entitled the few to rule. Nor, in the eyes of these critics, were the mass of men impressed with the middle-class claim to govern; even...

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 265-276)