History of Democracy: A Marxist Interpretation [NOOK Book]


The concept of democracy has become tarnished in recent years, as governments become disconnected from voters and pursue unpopular policies. And yet the ideal of democracy continues to inspire movements around the world, such as the Arab Spring.

Brian Roper refreshes our understanding of democracy using a Marxist theoretical framework. He traces the history of democracy from ancient Athens to the emergence of liberal representative and ...
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History of Democracy: A Marxist Interpretation

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The concept of democracy has become tarnished in recent years, as governments become disconnected from voters and pursue unpopular policies. And yet the ideal of democracy continues to inspire movements around the world, such as the Arab Spring.

Brian Roper refreshes our understanding of democracy using a Marxist theoretical framework. He traces the history of democracy from ancient Athens to the emergence of liberal representative and socialist participatory democracy in Europe and North America, through to the global spread of democracy during the past century.

Roper argues that democracy cannot be understood separately from underlying processes of exploitation and class struggle. He offers an engaging Marxist critique of representative democracy, and raises the possibility of alternative democratic forms. The History of Democracy will be of interest to students and scholars of history and politics and all those concerned about the past, present and future of democracy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781849647144
  • Publisher: Pluto Press
  • Publication date: 11/9/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 775 KB

Meet the Author

Brian S. Roper lectures in Politics at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He has been involved in the socialist left and political activism in New Zealand since the early 1980s. He is the author of Prosperity for All? Economic, Social and Political Change in New Zealand since 1935 (2005).
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Table of Contents

Preface and acknowledgements ix

Introduction 1

1 Origins: democracy in the ancient Greek world 14

Introduction 14

The historical emergence of Athenian democracy 14

Class struggle in the Ancient Greek polis 20

Cleisthenes' reforms: establishing demokratia 22

Peasant citizens, class struggle and democracy 30

The suppression of democracy from 322-1 BC 33

Conclusion 35

Guide to further reading 36

2 Democracy suppressed: the Roman republic and empire 37

Introduction 37

The historical origins and development of the Roman republic from 509 to 27 BC 38

Roman territorial expansion 38

The economic and social structure of Roman society 40

The political institutions of the Roman republic and the 'conflict of orders' 44

The 'mixed constitution' of the Roman republic: democracy or oligarchy? 47

From the principate to the fall of the Roman empire, 27 BC to 476 AD 57

Conclusion 60

Guide to further reading 61

3 The early Middle Ages and the transition from feudalism to capitalism 62

Introduction 62

The early Middle Ages and the emergence of feudalism in Europe 62

Historical retrogression during the early Middle Ages 62

The origins of feudalism in Western Europe 65

The central features of feudalism 67

The growth of feudalism 71

The crisis of feudalism and the emergence of absolutism in France and capitalism in England 75

The crisis of feudalism 75

French absolutism 78

Explaining the emergence of capitalism in England 81

Conclusion 85

Guide to further reading 86

4 The English Revolution and parliamentary democracy 88

Introduction 88

The English Revolution and civil war, 1640-59 89

English society in the mid-seventeenth century: population, class, gender and religion 89

The historical origins of the English Parliament 95

Background and context, 1603-40 95

Parliamentary rebellion, civil war and the Levellers, 1640-49 99

The republic and protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, 1650-59 112

From the restoration of 1660 to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 113

Conclusion 116

Guide to further reading 117

5 The American Revolution and constitutional redefinition of democracy 119

Introduction 119

The American Revolution 1775-87 119

Background and context 119

Narrative of events 128

The constitutional redefinition of democracy, 1787-91 138

The Philadelphia Convention of 1787 138

Ratification of the Constitution: federalists versus anti-federalists 142

The historical novelty of representative democracy 144

Completing the revolution: civil war 1861-65 148

Conclusion 151

Guide to further reading 152

6 The revolutionary revival of democracy in France 153

Introduction 153

Background and context 154

Classes, clergy, monarchy 154

Enlightenment philosophy 158

Long and short-term causes of the revolution 159

Narrative of events 161

The revolt of the nobility 162

The bourgeois revolution of 1789 163

The revolutionary Jacobin government and the popular movement, 1792-95 168

The Jacobin Constitution of 1793 173

1795: The fall of the Jacobins and the Thermidorian reaction 175

Conclusion 175

Guide to further reading 177

7 The revolutions of 1848-49 178

Introduction 178

Background and causes 178

A wave of revolution sweeps Europe 180

The June insurrection 185

The Conservative counter-revolution 186

Springtime of the peoples 191

Conclusion: The historical legacy of the 1848 revolutions 193

Guide to further reading 195

8 Capitalist expansion, globalisation and democratisation 196

Introduction 196

Capitalist expansion on a global scale 196

The key characteristics of representative democracy 204

The development of representative democracy in the advanced capitalist societies and the growing geographical spread of representative democracy 206

The impact of globalisation on representative democracy 212

Conclusion 215

Guide to further reading 216

9 The Marxist critique of capitalism and representative democracy 217

Introduction 217

The Marxist critique of capitalism 218

Exploitation and inequality 218

Environment 224

Competition, imperialism and war 225

Crisis 226

Oppression 227

Alienation 231

The democratic swindle 236

The social and economic context of representative democracy 236

The institutional mechanisms of representative democracy 238

Conclusion: exploitation, alienation and democracy 239

Guide to further reading 240

10 Precursors of socialist participatory democracy: the Paris Commune 1871 and Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 241

Introduction 241

The Paris Commune 1871 243

Classical Marxist interpretations of the Commune 250

The Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917: workers' power 252

Historical context 252

The 1905 Revolution 253

War, crisis and revolution 257

The February Revolution and dual power 257

The Bolsheviks and the October Revolution 263

Was the Russian Revolution a 'Bolshevik coup'? 265

The new workers' state: constructing socialism? 267

The Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution 269

Conclusion: socialism and democracy beyond capitalism 274

Guide to further reading 275

Bibliography 277

Index 295

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