03 January 2010

Book: Against the Masses

In 2001, Oxford University Press published Joseph V. Femia's study "Against the Masses: Varieties of Anti-Democratic Thought Since the French Revolution":


Publisher's description: "Given the almost universal assumption that democracy is a 'good thing', the goal of mankind, it is easy to forget that 'rule by the people' has been vehemently opposed by some of the most distinguished thinkers in the Western tradition. The author attempts to combat collective amnesia by systematically exploring and evaluating anti-democratic thought since the French Revolution. Using categories first introduced by A.O. Hirschman in The Rhetoric of Reaction, Femia examines the various arguments under the headings of 'perversity', 'futility', and 'jeopardy'. This classification scheme enables him to highlight the fatalism and pessimism of anti-democratic thinkers, their conviction that democratic reform would be either pointless or destructive. Femia shows how they failed to understand the adaptability of democracy, its ability to co-exist with the traditional and elitist values. But, controversially, he also argues that some of their predictions and observations have been confirmed by history."

Quite an expensive book. OUP even charges $121.50 for Amazon's Kindle version.

The book is fully searchable, though, on Google Book Search:


The full text may also be available in the electronic databases of university libraries.

A volume in the "know your enemy" tradition of studies on anti-democratic thought and practice.

Joseph V. Femia is Professor of Political Theory at the University of Liverpool.

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