In the decade before World War I, a wave of democratic revolutions swept the globe, consuming more than a quarter of the world’s population. Revolution transformed Russia, Iran, the Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Mexico, and China. In each case, a pro-democracy movement unseated a long-standing autocracy with startling speed. The nascent democratic regime held elections, convened parliament, and allowed freedom of the press and freedom of association. But the new governments failed in many instances to uphold the rights and freedoms that they proclaimed. Coups d’état soon undermined the democratic experiments.
How do we account for these unexpected democracies, and for their rapid extinction? In Democracy Denied, Charles Kurzman proposes that the collective agent most directly responsible for democratization was the emerging class of modern intellectuals, a group that had gained a global identity and a near-messianic sense of mission following the Dreyfus Affair of 1898.
Each chapter of Democracy Denied focuses on a single angle of this story, covering all six cases by examining newspaper accounts, memoirs, and government reports. This thoroughly interdisciplinary treatment of the early-twentieth-century upheavals promises to reshape debates about the social origins of democracy, the causes of democratic collapse, the political roles of intellectuals, and the international flow of ideas.
This book is a major contribution to the study of democracy in the modern world. While it deals with developments at the beginning of the twentieth century, it will be important for understanding democratization at the beginning of the twenty-first century as well.
The scope of this book is unique. No comparative study of countries so disparate in geography and cultural tradition has ever been attempted. The result is a landmark in comparative historical sociology.
Uniquely valuable, as well as suddenly relevant...For today's reader, the most absorbing sections of this book are likely to be those taking up Iran, since common wisdom, both among critics of Islamic society and enemies of the neoconservative vision for Iraq and Afghanistan, holds that the faith of the Prophet Muhammad and democracy are incompatible. In reality, as Kurzman records in detail, numerous partisans of change in the Muslim empires embraced a modernizing, rationalist, reformist, and positivist Islamic vocabulary.
Kurzman's mastery of a wide range of sources and languages allows him to draw surprising connections...The intellectuals of 1905–1915 were, Kurzman amply shows, deluded about their peoples' readiness for democracy. They were ahead of their time, a misfortune not just their own, but their countries'.
- 404 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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