By Joseph V. Femia
Given the idea that democracy is a "good thing," the target of humankind, you'll be able to put out of your mind that "rule by means of the people" has been vehemently adverse through essentially the most special thinkers within the Western culture. This booklet makes an attempt to wrestle collective amnesia by way of systematically exploring and comparing anti-democratic notion because the French Revolution.
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Extra resources for Against the Masses: Varieties of Anti-Democratic Thought since the French Revolution
60 The people may believe that they are in control of events, but this is a cruel illusion. God insists that earthly authority must mimic his own autocratic rule over the universe. If we are lucky, this authority will be embedded in customary practices and arrangements and will therefore enjoy the spontaneous obedience of most people. 61 Yet the revolutionaries were, from Maistre’s perspective, no more than automatons in the hands of Providence. Although they rebelled against the laws of the universe, they were nevertheless doing God’s work: ‘never has the Divinity shown itself so clearly in any human event.
And trans. R. A. Lebrun (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994). Burke’s ‘formidable impact’ on Maistre is ably discussed by Marco Ravera, who argues that the Reflections convinced the Savoyard of the ‘epochal’ significance of the events in France. II tradizionalismo francese (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1991), 4–6, 12–13. ), The Political Thought of the German Romantics, 150). 30 The Perversity Thesis is not an artificial association based on calculations of self-interest, but rests at least as much on a mysterious human yearning for wholeness and communion with others—this characteristically Burkean idea was embraced by Maistre with enthusiasm.
Individuals developed neither the skills nor the attitudes required in the democratic arena. Wherever the organic conception of society is dominant, democracy as we know it would seem inappropriate, alien, and perhaps even unintelligible. It is clear, then, that democracy cannot simply be grafted onto a holistic, traditional society— a proposition confirmed by the experience of post-colonial Africa. The romantic conservatives understood how culture shapes and constrains political arrangements; many democrats—even those with the benefit of hindsight— show no such understanding and betray an almost missionary zeal to impose their values, whatever the circumstances.
Against the Masses: Varieties of Anti-Democratic Thought since the French Revolution by Joseph V. Femia