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

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9780195054613: Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought
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In this magnificent and encyclopedic overview, James T. Kloppenberg presents the history of democracy from the perspective of those who struggled to envision and achieve it. The story of democracy remains one without an ending, a dynamic of progress and regress that continues to our own day. In the classical age "democracy" was seen as the failure rather than the ideal of good governance. Democracies were deemed chaotic and bloody, indicative of rule by the rabble rather than by enlightened minds. Beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries, however, first in Europe and then in England's North American colonies, the reputation of democracy began to rise, resulting in changes that were sometimes revolutionary and dramatic, sometimes gradual and incremental.

Kloppenberg offers a fresh look at how concepts and institutions of representative government developed and how understandings of self-rule changed over time on both sides of the Atlantic. Notions about what constituted true democracy preoccupied many of the most influential thinkers of the Western world, from Montaigne and Roger Williams to Milton and John Locke; from Rousseau and Jefferson to Wollstonecraft and Madison; and from de Tocqueville and J. S. Mill to Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Over three centuries, explosive ideas and practices of democracy sparked revolutions--English, American, and French--that again and again culminated in civil wars, disastrous failures of democracy that impeded further progress.

Comprehensive, provocative, and authoritative, Toward Democracy traces self-government through three pivotal centuries. The product of twenty years of research and reflection, this momentous work reveals how nations have repeatedly fallen short in their attempts to construct democratic societies based on the principles of autonomy, equality, deliberation, and reciprocity that they have claimed to prize. Underlying this exploration lies Kloppenberg's compelling conviction that democracy was and remains an ethical ideal rather than merely a set of institutions, a goal toward which we continue to struggle.

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About the Author:


James T. Kloppenberg is Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard, where he teaches European and American intellectual history. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians, has served as Pitt Professor at the University of Cambridge and as a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and has held fellowships from the ACLS, NEH, and the Guggenheim, Whiting, and Danforth foundations.

Review:


"In exploring the variety of democratic forms that arose in the Atlantic world, Kloppenberg reminds readers that popular self-government was not preordained by modernity nor brought into the world at a single heroic moment."--Foreign Affairs


"The book dazzles through its range and sweep, offering new interpretations of familiar texts and drawing attention to unfamiliar ones."--Kunal M. Parker, The Journal of American History


"This ambitious book is much more than a description of successive democratic ideals. Kloppenberg identifies a specific set of principles that characterize democracy and another set of conditions of possibility for a democratic order...The historical narrative illuminates the history of democratic thought and simultaneously advances an argument for specific institutional features of modern democracy."--James Livesey, American Historical Review


"James T. Kloppenberg's thoughtful and ambitious intellectual history of democracy is most welcome. Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought is learned, well-written, and jargon-free. Its scope is immense...With Toward Democracy, James Kloppenberg has written a strikingly thoughtful work on the democratic experiment. He is an eloquent partisan who writes seriously about self-limitation and the moral foundations of democracy."--Daniel J. Mahoney, Claremont Review of Books


"An original discussion of how the idea of democracy took root and has been transformed in the West...As [Kloppenberg] observes, the ability of people to govern themselves without an entrenched class of overseers has long been a matter of controversy, though the argument has a chicken-and-egg quality to it . . . Surveying the subsequent political landscape, Kloppenberg allows that the debate has found plenty of room to continue to rage. Elsewhere, he writes of the idea that the people have not just the right, but also the duty to resist 'tyrants who flout divine law,' as well as the idea that the source of authority truly lies in the consent of the governed and 'the conscience of individual citizens.' . . . A book to read, profitably, alongside Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies." -Kirkus Reviews


"This is intellectual history on a monumental scale. In a time when democracy again seems tragically fragile, James Kloppenberg has given us a sweeping, searching and enormously timely account of its development in European and American thought. Starting with Michel de Montaigne reflecting upon savage religious violence in France, and concluding with Abraham Lincoln trying to bind up America's wounds at the end of the Civil War, Kloppenberg's account is framed by bloodshed, underlining his central argument about just how difficult the struggle has been for democratic ideals to prevail." -David A. Bell, Lapidus Professor, Department of History, Princeton University


"James Kloppenberg has spent years thinking fruitfully and writing wisely about both the moral underpinnings of democracy and the interaction between American and European thought. Toward Democracy is his magnum opus, and what an extraordinary contribution it is. Our democracies would work better if, as Kloppenberg suggests, we followed St. Paul's injunction to see through each other's eyes and think through each other's minds." -E. J. Dionne, Jr., author of Why the Right Went Wrong and Our Divided Political Heart


"Learned and magisterial, James Kloppenberg's important history of democracy in modern European and American thought is not just a political story but a moral one, of democracy as an elusive ethical ideal requiring self-restraint and reciprocity." -Caroline Winterer, Director and Anthony P. Meier Family Professor in the Humanities, Stanford Humanities Center


"This impressive work, a monument to the author's lifetime of historical scholarship, provides a lucid, richly informed narrative about the struggle for democracy across the centuries. . . . Kloppenberg's focus is on the ideas of great thinkers: His book demonstrates the recovery of intellectual history after years of neglect." -Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848


"Toward Democracy will surely become a vital guide as citizens try to recalibrate the balance of freedom and equality for our own time." -Commonweal Magazine


"Kloppenberg braids minor key notes into his symphony of world-altering achievements."
-Shepherd Express


"Let there be no doubt: Toward Democracy makes a major contribution to both scholarship and citizenship in America." -Harvard Magazine


"With Toward Democracy, James T. Kloppenberg has undertaken nothing less than the story of democracy 'as it was imagined, understood, and practiced' from its origins in ancient Greece to its modern emergence in the 18th and 19th centuries. . . . In a series of finely crafted summaries of European thinkers and their American interpreters (including Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Franklin), he shows how the genius of democracy took shape in the American mind and then asserted itself in independence and in the ratification of the Constitution." -The Wall Street Journal


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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2016. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Seller Inventory # AOP9780195054613

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