Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville & the Modern Prospect

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Yale University Press, 2009 - Political Science - 374 pages
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In 1989, the Cold War abruptly ended and it seemed as if the world was at last safe for democracy. But a spirit of uneasiness, discontent, and world-weariness soon arose and has persisted in Europe, in America, and elsewhere for two decades. To discern the meaning of this malaise we must investigate the nature of liberal democracy, says the author of this provocative book, and he undertakes to do so through a detailed investigation of the thinking of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville.


Paul A. Rahe argues that these political thinkers anticipated the modern liberal republic's propensity to drift in the direction of “soft despotism”—a condition that arises within a democracy when paternalistic state power expands and gradually undermines the spirit of self-government. Such an eventuality, feared by Tocqueville in the nineteenth century, has now become a reality throughout the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. So Rahe asserts, and he explains what must be done to reverse this unfortunate trend.


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User Review  - bruchu - LibraryThing

Soft Despotism and Expansion of the Liberal State In this academic text, Paul A. Rahe analyzes the works of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville and then attempts to apply their philosophies to the ... Read full review

Soft despotism, democracy's drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville & the modern prospect

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Rahe (history & political science, Hillsdale Coll.; Republics Ancient and Modern) has actually written two books in one: the first three quarters are a detailed reading of the great 18th- and 19th ... Read full review


Book One The Modern Republic Examined
Book Two The Modern Republic Revisited
Book Three The Democratic Republic Considered

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About the author (2009)

Paul A. Rahe is professor of history and political science at Hillsdale College, and author of Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution and Against Throne and Altar: Machiavelli and Political Theory under the English Republic.

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