Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought

ISBN : 9780195054613

James T. Kloppenberg
912 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jul 2016
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The history of democracy, in addition to being a tale of social movements and political and economic developments, is also a story of ideas. In Toward Democracy, James T. Kloppenberg explores this story of ideas, focusing on the evolution of democracy in Britain's North American colonies and then in the United States. By concentrating on historical figures whose pivotal texts and framed arguments helped form the concept of democracy, he examines how American ideas and practices both descended and diverged from earlier European, and particularly English, models. Kloppenberg also shows how American thought, in return, profoundly influenced European ideas about democracy-both negatively and positively. Toward Democracy presents the history of democracy from the perspective of those who helped to form its principles. Kloppenberg neither condemns nor endorses these thinkers, but rather offers a fresh look at how these initial democratic ideals have shifted over time. He argues that democracy has remained an ethical model rather than a mere set of institutions, and sheds light on the many failures faced by democracy and its advocates. This discrepancy-between intentions and results-constitutes the tragic irony of democracy. From the beginnings of democracy in the ancient world, through the Enlightenment, and past the French Revolution, James T. Kloppenberg's authoritative work traces the transformation of democracy over centuries, and reveals how nations have repeatedly failed in their attempts to construct democratic societies based on the autonomy and reciprocity they so prized.


Introduction: The Paradoxes of Democracy in History

Part One: Roots and Branches
1. Born in Bloodshed: The Origins Democracy
2. Voices in the Wilderness: Democracies in North America
3. Democracy Deferred: The English Civil War
4. Coup d'Etat: 1688 in England and America

Part Two: Trial and Error
5. Sympathy, Will, and Democracy in the Enlightenments of Europe
6. Enlightenment, Faith, and Resistance in America
7. Democracy and American Independence
8. Constituting American Democracy
9. Ratification and Reciprocity

Part Three: Failure in Success
10. Delusions of Unity and Collisions with Tradition in France
11. Virtue and Violence in the French Revolution
12. Democracy in the Wake of Terror
13. Diagnosing Cultures of Democracy in America and Europe
14. The Tragic Irony of Democracy


About the author: 

James T. Kloppenberg is Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University.

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