Cover image for Democracy : a history of ideas
Title:
Democracy : a history of ideas
Author:
DeWiel, Boris.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Vancouver, BC : UBC Press ; Seattle : University of Washington Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
202 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Language:
English
Subject Term:
ISBN:
9780295981062

9780774808026
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library JC421 .D48 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

What is democracy? Is it the progressive movement of equality and social justice? According to Boris DeWiel, this popular definition is wrong. Inspired by Isaiah Berlin, he argues that democracy is a contest of values in which egalitarianism is only one side. Democracy is contentious because the values of modernity conflict with each other -- and yet, these values are the best that we have.To discover the moral basis of political disharmony, the author traces the history of Western political thought. In a probing analysis that moves from ancient precepts of the good, through the emerging values of modernity, to the ethical beliefs of today, DeWiel develops a theory of democracy as a permanent contest of true but competing ideals. Following Berlin, he shows that democracy is best defined by a tragic conflict of goods, in which every achievement may entail a deep loss.The book suggests that wherever democracy emerges, a pattern of conflict will arise among socialist, liberal, and conservative ideals. By specifying the precise values embedded along the left-right continuum, DeWiel offers this hypothesis in a way that may be used empirically in future studies. Based on a sophisticated theory of democracy, this book provides a model of ideological differences designed to apply across democratic nations.


Summary

What is democracy? Is it the movement toward united self-government in which equality is our highest value? Or is it about preserving the freedom of individuals? In Democracy: A History of Ideas, Boris DeWiel argues that neither of these popular definitions is correct. Inspired by Isaiah Berlin, he describes democracy as a contest of values. Equality and liberty, like justice and fairness, are among our ultimate ideals, but no single value is supreme. Because they conflict with each other, democracy is an endless battle of true yet contrary ideals.


Author Notes

Boris DeWiel teaches in the Department of Political Science at the University of Northern British Columbia.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

DeWiel (Univ. of British Columbia, Canada) writes about the concept of democracy. In democracy, people fight "irresolvable" conflicts over what they hold in common. DeWiel does away with the idea that democracy is a contest over good and bad ideas. He argues that democratic pluralistic theories are used to create the illusion that there are absolute ideas of change without telling the reader that this construct is a chosen reality and not reality itself. Political theorists who do their job best evaluate ideas and then attempt to convince others that their ideas are best. DeWiel takes this broad and inclusive perspective into his discussion of the history of the idea of democracy. Democracy to him is a collection of valid definitions, not just a single one. He takes us on a fascinating journey through the history of the theory of democracy. DeWiel writes in a very engaging fashion, carrying the reader along from start to finish. Students of politics or philosophy will thoroughly enjoy his book. Recommended for all levels and all libraries. P. Barton-Kriese; Indiana University East


Choice Review

DeWiel (Univ. of British Columbia, Canada) writes about the concept of democracy. In democracy, people fight "irresolvable" conflicts over what they hold in common. DeWiel does away with the idea that democracy is a contest over good and bad ideas. He argues that democratic pluralistic theories are used to create the illusion that there are absolute ideas of change without telling the reader that this construct is a chosen reality and not reality itself. Political theorists who do their job best evaluate ideas and then attempt to convince others that their ideas are best. DeWiel takes this broad and inclusive perspective into his discussion of the history of the idea of democracy. Democracy to him is a collection of valid definitions, not just a single one. He takes us on a fascinating journey through the history of the theory of democracy. DeWiel writes in a very engaging fashion, carrying the reader along from start to finish. Students of politics or philosophy will thoroughly enjoy his book. Recommended for all levels and all libraries. P. Barton-Kriese; Indiana University East


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vi
1 Democracy and Value Pluralismp. 3
2 What Is the People? A Conceptual History of Civil Societyp. 11
3 From Ancient Virtues to Modern Values: Positive Liberty and the Creative Willp. 23
4 The Teleology of Modern Time: Negative Liberty and Human Naturep. 43
5 Splitting the Individual: The Subatomic Values of Liberalismp. 72
6 Conservatism and the Temporal Orderp. 91
7 Socialism and the Power of Social Unityp. 117
8 Democracy as a Pattern of Disagreementp. 142
Notesp. 181
Bibliographyp. 191
Indexp. 198
Acknowledgmentsp. vi
1 Democracy and Value Pluralismp. 3
2 What Is the People? A Conceptual History of Civil Societyp. 11
3 From Ancient Virtues to Modern Values: Positive Liberty and the Creative Willp. 23
4 The Teleology of Modern Time: Negative Liberty and Human Naturep. 43
5 Splitting the Individual: The Subatomic Values of Liberalismp. 72
6 Conservatism and the Temporal Orderp. 91
7 Socialism and the Power of Social Unityp. 117
8 Democracy as a Pattern of Disagreementp. 142
Notesp. 181
Bibliographyp. 191
Indexp. 198

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