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Paradoxes of Democracy

, 136 pages
March 2002



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Paradoxes of Democracy

Fragility, Continuity, and Change

"The general as well as the more scholarly discourse on democracy has long been guided by two contradictory assumptions. On the one hand it has been assumed that there is a natural human predisposition to democracy, an assumption increasingly prevalent and popular following the breakup of the Soviet regime and many authoritarian regimes in Southern Europe and Latin America. On the other hand, it has been assumed from their very inception that democratic regimes were aware of their fragility. This awareness was built, to some degree, on the political discourse of antiquity, but it was rooted above all in the direct experience of the modern era."–from the introduction

Paradoxes of Democracy is an essay on the inherent weaknesses and surprising strengths of democratic government by one of the most productive and learned scholars in the social sciences.

Shmuel Eisenstadt opens with observations on divergent theories of democracy and closes with a discussion of mechanisms by which democratic regimes incorporate into their own structures the movements of protest that seem to challenge their existence. In between he courses through the roots of democratic theory in modern culture, the contradictions and tensions prompted by those roots, and some of the historical manifestations of contradiction. Eisenstadt focuses on the most important conditions—especially on different patterns of collective identity—which influence the extent to which democratic regimes are able to incorporate themes of protest and social movements and thus ensure their common survival.

Shmuel Eisenstadt is Rose Isaacs Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"A welcome reminder that constitutions have to survive in the face of incalculable changes."

"A tour de force of the highest order and addresses itself to one of the hottest market areas of the field, to students of democracy in sociology, political science, and history of ideas... An extraordinarily impressive book on all accounts."

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