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Contesting democracy : political ideas in…
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Contesting democracy : political ideas in twentieth-century Europe (utgåvan 2011)

av Jan-Werner Mller

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner
532393,619 (3.5)Ingen/inga
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 M#65533;ller 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. M#65533;ller 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.… (mer)
Medlem:BransonSchool
Titel:Contesting democracy : political ideas in twentieth-century Europe
Författare:Jan-Werner Mller
Info:New Haven : Yale University Press, 2011.
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
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Taggar:Ingen/inga

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Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe av Jan-Werner Müller

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This is a well-written book, but it doesn't deserve all the accolades heaped upon it in the editorial reviews above. A writer claiming pan-European analysis has to find the right generalizations to portray ideas which influenced the entire continent. The author succeeds in doing so only in the first three chapters of the book (leading up to 1945). In the post-1945 chapters he fails to find a focused perspective and mysteriously leaves the democratic state itself out of the picture.

The best part of the book is the analysis of political systems before and after the first world war. I also liked the portrayal of fascist ideology as a specifically anti-democratic movement. The author focuses on four or five representative thinkers in each chapter and mixes political thought with history instructively. I haven't read many other studies of fascism yet, but this one serves well as a brief introduction for a novice.

But what happened in European political thought after 1945? I became none the wiser on that subject from reading this book. The author discusses Stalin's communism and the Hungarian and Czech uprisings in reasonably interesting fashion, but he struggles to say anything about developments on the western side of the Iron Curtain. His main contention seems to be that "Christian democracy was the most important ideological innovation of the post-war period, and one of the most significant of the European twentieth century as a whole" (p. 130). I detect a strong German myopia in this absurd statement. I'm a European resident with many political interests but I had never heard of "Christian democracy" before reading this book. I had to use Wikipedia to discover what this "most important innovation" even means.

But even so, Christian democracy could have provided one vantage point for pan-European analysis if properly elaborated. But strangely enough the author lets go of this concept immediately after introducing it. Instead of discussing the roots of European democracy he focuses almost exclusively on left-wing thought and anti-state protest movements. He wastes a whole chapter on the student movement of 1968, a movement whose political thought was rudimentary and inconsequential at best. He even makes room for the repulsive idiocy of Baader-Meinhof terrorists. But what about the various hues of well-functioning liberal democracy in Europe from the 1950s onward? Was no political thinking needed to make them work? And what about the European Union, to which the author devotes one (!) page? Is there really no political thought worth mentioning behind that project either?

The title "Contesting democracy" might seem to justify an exclusively anti-democratic emphasis throughout the book, but it doesn't make much sense to merely discuss opposing ideas without explaining what they opposed. In summary, the author is in his element when analysing the events that led to the World Wars and the political thought these wars spawned, especially fascist and communist ideology. He's unwilling to describe the positive development of democratic politics in Europe after the wars and this reduces the value of the latter half of this book to almost nil.
  thcson | Feb 4, 2015 |
interesting "historical promenade" on the democracy and democratic institutions - worth reading it along with "Who paid the piper?: the CIA and the cultural Cold War" http://www.librarything.com/work/230421/book/88616058 ( )
  aleph123 | Jan 27, 2014 |
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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 M#65533;ller 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. M#65533;ller 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.

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