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A Theory of Militant Democracy

A Theory of Militant Democracy: The Ethics of Combatting Political Extremism

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    A Theory of Militant Democracy
    Book Description:

    How should pro-democratic forces safeguard representative government from anti-democratic forces? By granting rights of participation to groups that do not share democratic values, democracies may endanger the very rights they have granted; but denying these rights may also undermine democratic values. Alexander Kirshner offers a set of principles for determining when one may reasonably refuse rights of participation, and he defends this theory through real-world examples, ranging from the far-right British Nationalist Party to Turkey's Islamist Welfare Party to America's Democratic Party during Reconstruction.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18985-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    “The bill! Or fire and slaughter! The bill! Or fire and slaughter!” This was the ultimatum shouted by the gang of Nazi brownshirts who surrounded the Kroll Opera House on March 23, 1933.¹ The opera house, a grand building, served as the temporary site of the Reichstag after a fire had destroyed its most recent home. The order of parliamentary business on that March afternoon was an enabling law that would give the recently appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler, vast discretionary powers over the German state. Four hundred and forty-four deputies, over two-thirds of the elected members of the parliament, voted...

  5. TWO The Self-Limiting Theory of Militant Democracy
    (pp. 26-60)

    In the previous chapter I argued that when political theorists discuss threats to democracy, they focus on legislation. As a result, their normative inquiries shed relatively little light on the following question: How should democrats respond to antidemocratic action that does not take the form of a statute? Answering that question requires an open-ended approach, one that will allow us to recognize the legitimate claims of antidemocrats and to grapple with the costs of actively protecting democracy. In this chapter I outline three principles that I use to assess the defense of representative government. Together, these principles constitute a self-limiting...

  6. THREE Political Regulation in Defense of Democracy
    (pp. 61-85)

    Nick Griffin is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and he is frequently described as the modern face of Britain’s extreme right. He is also the author of “Who Are the Mindbenders?” an essay that investigates a decidedly old-fashioned topic: Jewish influence over the media. On June 7, 2009, the party Griffin leads, the British National Party (BNP), won two seats in an election to the European Parliament. Soon after, Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) sent the BNP a letter informing the party that its membership rules violated Britain’s Race Relations Act. The commission requested the BNP...

  7. FOUR Justifying the Exclusion of Antidemocrats
    (pp. 86-106)

    On the very first page of his bookThe Republican Experiment, the historian Maurice Agulhon notes that many participants in the French Second Republic held no affection for self-government. Unlike those who had cultivated deep and abiding allegiances to republicanism, opponents of the new dispensation were sarcastically referred to by their peers asrepublicains du lendemain, or republicans on the day after—that is, the day after the revolution.¹ Agulhon brands disloyal participants with a different epithet: they were republicans through the force of circumstance. These citizens participated not because they accepted the republic’s legitimacy, but because, for the moment,...

  8. FIVE On Preventive Intervention
    (pp. 107-140)

    On December 24, 1995, the Refah Party scored an impressive victory in Turkey’s parliamentary elections. Refah (Welfare), an Islamist party, won the largest share of parliamentary seats (158 of 450), and it soon formed a coalition with the center-right True Path Party. The alliance allowed Necmettin Erbakan, Refah’s leader, to take the post of prime minister in the summer of 1996. A veteran political operative, Erbakan had previously headed a party that had been banned in 1971.¹

    Members of Turkey’s secular establishment, including leading military officers and a significant portion of the Turkish population, viewed the ascendance of the Refah...

  9. SIX Political Exclusion and the Limits of Militant Democracy
    (pp. 141-163)

    On February 7, 1866, William Pitt Fessenden, a leading Republican senator from Maine, stepped onto the floor of the Senate and outlined the political facts of the day: “We have had a great war. That war has resulted in overthrowing an institution of the States, one that had been a blight and a curse upon this nation from its very foundation.” With victory in the Civil War, the North had ended slavery. Yet though the Confederacy had been demolished, Southerners still posed a threat to the republic. And if the federal government failed to guarantee the political rights of the...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 164-168)

    It is said that to defend democracy, societies must behave antidemocratically. In this book I have aimed to upend this paradoxical fragment of wisdom. Societiescankeep faith with democratic principle; to do so, they must steadfastly defend the rights of both democrats and antidemocrats.

    For political theorists, the archetype of antidemocratic action, the problem to be addressed by a theory of militant democracy, has traditionally been an inflamed majority making decisions or forging laws that violate basic tenets of democratic practice. And because they have concentrated on the moral status of those decisions and those laws, these theorists have...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 169-188)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-208)