Alternatives to Democracy in Twentieth-Century Europe

Collectivist Visions of Modernity
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Publication date: 
492 pages

Alternatives to Democracy in Twentieth-Century Europe examines the historical examples of Soviet Communism, Italian Fascism, German Nazism, and Spanish Anarchism, suggesting that, in spite of their differences, they had some key features in common, in particular their shared hostility to individualism, representative government, laissez faire capitalism, and the decadence they associated with modern culture. But rather than seeking to return to earlier ways of working these movements and regimes sought to design a new future – an alternative future – that would restore the nation to spiritual and political health. The Fascists, for their part, specifically promoted palingenesis, which is to say the spiritual rebirth of the nation.

The book closes with a long epilogue, in which Ramet defends liberal democracy, highlighting its strengths and advantages. In this chapter, the author identifies five key choke points, which would-be authoritarians typically seek to control, subvert, or instrumentalize: electoral rules, the judiciary, the media, hate speech, and surveillance, and looks at the cases of Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, Jarosław Kaczyński’s Poland, and Donald Trump’s United States.

CHAPTER 1. Rival Visions of Alternative Modernity: An Introduction
CHAPTER 2. An Evolving Vision of an Alternative Modernity: Soviet Communism
CHAPTER 3. The Quest for an Alternative Modernity: Fascism and Nazism, Part I
CHAPTER 4. The Quest for an Alternative Modernity: Fascism and Nazism, Part II
CHAPTER 5. The Quest for Freedom and Solidarity: Anarchism in Spain
EPILOGUE In Defense of Liberal Democracy—and a Warning
Further Reading
About the Author

"Knjiga je napisana na temelju raznovrsne vrijedne literature. Opisano je kako su određene ideologije tijekom XX. stoljeća nametale svoje kolektivističke inačice „alternativne modernosti”, što je vodilo u velika ljudska stradanja i ratove. Naklonost autorice na strani je liberalne demokracije iako i sama upozorava na određene nedostatke takva sustava, a sa zabrinutošću gleda i upozorava na to kako početkom ovoga stoljeća u nekim slučajevima demokratski sustavi slabe, zloupotrebljavaju se ili urušavaju. Ova knjiga svakako može biti zanimljiva našim povjesničarima, politolozima i drugima ako se uzme u obzir da je hrvatska povijest XX. stoljeća znatnim dijelom bila obilježena ideologijama o kojima autorica piše, kao i kada je riječ o trenutačnim raspravama o stanju i razvoju našega društva u širem europskom okviru."
"Alternatives to Democracy is at its core a transnational work of comparative twentieth-century history philosophically rooted in the immediate contexts of the late 2000s and the 2010s. The ideas underpinning the central thesis of this book are thus explored through two interconnected analyses. The first, comprising most of the book’s content, identifies and deconstructs four forms of collectivist ideology that dominated the political landscape of twentieth-century Europe: Soviet communism, Italian and German fascism, and the more incongruous choice of interwar Spanish anarchism. Despite widely differing socioeconomic objectives and geopolitical aspirations (or lack thereof), each of these ideological movements positioned itself as a distinct alternative to liberal democracy, defined by Ramet as a political commitment to ‘the rule of law, individual rights, toleration, respect for the harm principle, basic human equality, and the neutrality of state in matters of religion’. In... more
"This is a timely moment to step back from the presentation of contemporary politics and take a historical approach to past challenges to liberal democracy in the twentieth century, which is precisely what Sabrina P. Ramet does in this eloquently written history of alternatives to democracy. She identifies four principal rival visions to that of liberal democracy: German National Socialism, Italian Fascism, Soviet Communism, and Spanish Anarcho-Syndicalism. Ramet's book is an extremely learned and interesting book that will be read with great benefit by anyone interested in the intellectual history of liberal democracy and its adversaries."