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Democracy is perhaps the defining characteristic of modern Western society, but even as late as the nineteenth century it was often viewed with suspicion by many who saw it as akin to anarchy and mob rule. It was not until the French and American revolutions of the eighteenth century that electoral democracy began to gain momentum as a serious force, which was eventually to shape political discourse on a broad, international scale. Taking as its focus the French Revolution, this book explores how the experience in France influenced the emergence of electoral democracy, arguing - contrary to recent revisionist studies - that it was indeed the progenitor of modern representative democracy. Rejecting the revisionist semiotic approach to political culture; it instead adopts a definition emphasizing the shared values that govern political behavior, arguing that the Revolution's essential contribution to modern political culture is its concept of citizenship, embracing widespread political participation. In a broader sense, the book studies the grass-roots democracy, focusing on participation in the primary and secondary electoral assemblies. It is primarily concerned with electoral behavior and practices: how can we explain the electoral process and its results? It analyzes electoral procedures and practices, and voter turnout, based on extensive quantitative data. While focused on political history, this work also examines political sociology, giving careful attention to the occupational composition of elected officials. While acknowledging the democratic shortcomings of the French Revolution (the absence of political parties, electoral campaigns, and declared candidates), the book’s comprehensive study of revolutionary elections concludes that, together with its American counterpart, the French Revolution did indeed give birth to modern electoral democracy. As such, this book is essential reading for historians, political scientists, sociologists and readers inte
Democracy is perhaps the defining characteristic of modern Western society, but even as late as the nineteenth century it was often viewed with suspicion by many who saw it as akin to anarchy and mob rule. It was not until the French and American revolutions of the eighteenth century that electoral democracy began to gain momentum as a serious force, which was eventually to shape political discourse on a broad, international scale. Taking as its focus the French Revolution, this book explores how the experience in France influenced the emergence of electoral democracy, arguing - contrary to recent revisionist studies - that it was indeed the progenitor of modern representative democracy. Rejecting the revisionist semiotic approach to political culture; it instead adopts a definition emphasizing the shared values that govern political behavior, arguing that the Revolution's essential contribution to modern political culture is its concept of citizenship, embracing widespread political participation. In a broader sense, the book studies the grass-roots democracy, focusing on participation in the primary and secondary electoral assemblies. It is primarily concerned with electoral behavior and practices: how can we explain the electoral process and its results? It analyzes electoral procedures and practices, and voter turnout, based on extensive quantitative data. While focused on political history, this work also examines political sociology, giving careful attention to the occupational composition of elected officials. While acknowledging the democratic shortcomings of the French Revolution (the absence of political parties, electoral campaigns, and declared candidates), the book’s comprehensive study of revolutionary elections concludes that, together with its American counterpart, the French Revolution did indeed give birth to modern electoral democracy. As such, this book is essential reading for historians, political scientists, sociologists and readers interested in the origin of modern liberal democracy.
Democracy is perhaps the defining characteristic of modern Western society, but even as late as the nineteenth century it was often viewed with suspicion by many who saw it as akin to anarchy and mob rule. It was not until the French and American revolutions of the eighteenth century that electoral democracy began to gain momentum as a serious force, which was eventually to shape political discourse on a broad, international scale. Taking as its focus the French Revolution, this book explores how the experience in France influenced the emergence of electoral democracy, arguing - contrary to recent revisionist studies - that it was indeed the progenitor of modern representative democracy. Rejecting the revisionist semiotic approach to political culture; it instead adopts a definition emphasizing the shared values that govern political behavior, arguing that the Revolution's essential contribution to modern political culture is its concept of citizenship, embracing widespread political participation. In a broader sense, the book studies the grass-roots democracy, focusing on participation in the primary and secondary electoral assemblies. It is primarily concerned with electoral behavior and practices: how can we explain the electoral process and its results? It analyzes electoral procedures and practices, and voter turnout, based on extensive quantitative data. While focused on political history, this work also examines political sociology, giving careful attention to the occupational composition of elected officials. While acknowledging the democratic shortcomings of the French Revolution (the absence of political parties, electoral campaigns, and declared candidates), the book’s comprehensive study of revolutionary elections concludes that, together with its American counterpart, the French Revolution did indeed give birth to modern electoral democracy. As such, this book is essential reading for historians, political scientists, sociologists and readers inte
Democracy is perhaps the defining characteristic of modern Western society, but even as late as the nineteenth century it was often viewed with suspicion by many who saw it as akin to anarchy and mob rule. Taking as its focus the French Revolution, this book explores how the experience in France influenced the emergence of electoral democracy, arguing - contrary to recent revisionist studies - that it was indeed the progenitor of modern representative democracy.
This book explores the vital but neglected issue of elections in the French Revolution. Based on extensive research in different regions of France, it is the only general survey to examine the full range of local and national contests, from the Estates General to the advent of Napoleon. Focusing on electoral behaviour, it reveals a fascinating experiment with a quasi-universal suffrage, which established enduring features of French elections. The retention of the traditional practice of voting in assemblies, and a refusal to acknowledge candidates, canvassing and competing political parties, inhibited the emergence of a pluralistic electoral culture. Nonetheless, frequent polling offered unprecedented political opportunities to millions. This revolutionary apprenticeship in democracy left a lasting imprint on the development of modern French citizenship.
As the number of democracies has increased around the world, a heated debate has emerged among political scientists about which system best promotes the consolidation of democracy. This book compares the experiences of diverse countries, from Latin America to southern Africa, from Uruguay, Japan, and Taiwan to Israel, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
A small book with great weight and urgency to it, this is both a history of democracy and a clarion call for change. "Without drastic adjustment, this system cannot last much longer," writes Van Reybrouck, regarded today as one of Europe's most astute thinkers. "If you look at the decline in voter turnout and party membership, and at the way politicians are held in contempt, if you look at how difficult it is to form governments, how little they can do and how harshly they are punished for it, if you look at how quickly populism, technocracy and anti-parliamentarianism are rising, if you look at how more and more citizens are longing for participation and how quickly that desire can tip over into frustration, then you realize we are up to our necks." Not so very long ago, the great battles of democracy were fought for the right to vote. Now, Van Reybrouck writes, "it's all about the right to speak, but in essence it's the same battle, the battle for political emancipation and for democratic participation. We must decolonize democracy. We must democratize democracy." As history, Van Reybrouck makes the compelling argument that modern democracy was designed as much to preserve the rights of the powerful and keep the masses in line, as to give the populace a voice. As change-agent, Against Elections makes the argument that there are forms of government, what he terms sortitive or deliberative democracy, that are beginning to be practiced around the world, and can be the remedy we seek. In Iceland, for example, deliberative democracy was used to write the new constitution. A group of people were chosen by lot, educated in the subject at hand, and then were able to decide what was best, arguably, far better than politicians would have. A fascinating, and workable idea has led to a timely book to remind us that our system of government is a flexible instrument, one that the people have the power to change.

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