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Contesting Democracy

Contesting Democracy

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Contesting Democracy
    Book Description:

    This book is the first major account of political thought in twentieth-century Europe, both West and East, to appear since the end of the Cold War. Skillfully blending intellectual, political, and cultural history, Jan-Werner Müller elucidates the ideas that shaped the period of ideological extremes before 1945 and the liberalization of West European politics after the Second World War. He also offers vivid portraits of famous as well as unjustly forgotten political thinkers and the movements and institutions they inspired.Müller pays particular attention to ideas advanced to justify fascism and how they relate to the special kind of liberal democracy that was created in postwar Western Europe. He also explains the impact of the 1960s and neoliberalism, ending with a critical assessment of today's self-consciously post-ideological age.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18090-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin once observed: ‘I have lived through most of the twentieth century without, I must add, suffering personal hardship. I remember it only as the most terrible century in Western history.’¹ The century was also one in which political ideas seemed to play an exceptionally important role – so much so that contemporaries connected them directly to the catastrophes and cataclysms through which they were living. This belief in the vast influence of ideas did not depend on political allegiance: the Polish poet (and anti-Communist) Czesław Miłosz pointed out that during the mid-twentieth century ‘the...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Molten Mass
    (pp. 7-48)

    At Christmas 1918 Max Weber had recently returned from Berlin to Munich, only to find himself in the midst of a ‘bloody carnival’. In the capital he had played a prominent role in deliberations about a new German constitution. This was somewhat surprising: for almost twenty years, the Heidelberg professor had suffered from various illnesses and was hardly seen in public. In the last two years of the First World War, however, he had written a series of polemical articles and tried desperately to act as a political educator of the German nation. He had also hoped to stand for...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Interwar Experiments: Making Peoples, Remaking Souls
    (pp. 49-90)

    ‘A period of experimentation of all types’ – with these terms the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur once described the interwar years through which he had lived as a young man.¹ Tomás Masaryk, just installed as first president of the new Czechoslovak state, thought post-1918 Europe a ‘laboratory built over the great graveyard of the World War’.² Europeans were partly forced to experiment because both tradition and dynastic legitimacy had ceased to provide principles for public order, but new ones had hardly become entrenched. A liberal restoration proved impossible – there were too many new people in politics, too many new...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Fascist Subjects: The Total State and Volksgemeinschaft
    (pp. 91-124)

    Many decades after the fall of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s regimes a generally agreed theoretical account of fascism – or just a definition – has remained elusive. There is not even consensus about whether fascism is a strictly limited historical term, something that happened to Italians (or rather was perpetrated by Italians) between 1922 and 1945, or a universal phenomenon. The disputes surrounding fascism are not just a result of academic nitpicking; they point to what appear to be characteristics of the thing itself. At least rhetorically, fascism was opposed to ‘reason’; it glorified will, intuition and sentiment. One could feel...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Reconstruction Thought: Self-Disciplined Democracies, ‘People’s Democracies’
    (pp. 125-170)

    Post-war reconstruction in Europe presented formidable, in fact unprecedented, tasks. They were, above all, material. But the challenges were also moral and symbolic. While the Holocaust was to remain marginal to thinking about the war at least until the 1960s, the meaning of mass violence and atrocity was immediately debated by political thinkers across the continent. After all, from the late 1930s to the late 1940s more people had been ‘killed by their fellow human beings than ever before in the history of humankind’.¹

    Mass death in the Second World War was not seen in the same way as in...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The New Time of Contestation: Towards a Fatherless Society
    (pp. 171-201)

    The twentieth century demonstrated that Europe was no longer central to world politics. It had done so brutally in the First and Second World Wars; in a less obvious – and, of course, less brutal – way the 1960s were also to drive home this point. The decade seemed to synchronize political and cultural dissatisfaction around the globe – what the CIA at the time referred to as a ‘world-wide phenomenon of restless youth’ (another American institution,Timemagazine, would actually declare youth the ‘Man of the Year’ in 1967). Outside Western Europe, the political stakes were clearly very high:...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Antipolitics, and the Sense of an Ending
    (pp. 202-242)

    In retrospect the mid-1970s seem like the high point of a profound crisis affecting not just Western Europe, but the West as a whole. At the very least they were the culmination of an acute consciousness of crisis in the West. The famous 1975 Report to the Trilateral Commission, a high-level group of politicians and bureaucrats in the US, Western Europe and Japan, fretted that European countries might become ‘ungovernable’: the oil shock of 1973 had brought thetrente glorieuses, the ‘thirty glorious years’, of unprecedented growth and social peace (compared to the first half of the twentieth century) to...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 243-272)
  12. Index
    (pp. 273-278)
  13. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 279-282)