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The Democratic Wish

October 28, 2009

by John Gray
from The National

John Keane’s new history shows that democracy is not a uniquely western invention. But this important revision, John Gray argues, does not add up to an argument for its necessity.

The Life and Death of Democracy
John Keane
Simon & Schuster
Dh174

Writing in 1908, the German thinker Max Weber, one of the founding theorists of contemporary social science, observed: “Such concepts as ‘the will of the people’, ‘the true will of the people’, have long since ceased to exist for me. They are fictions. All ideas aiming at abolishing the dominance of humans by others are utopian.” Weber was a liberal, who never doubted that democracy is better than tyranny. But he was also a realist. Democracy can make governments more responsible, he believed, and ensure they can be changed in a peaceful manner. It cannot abolish the need for rulers. more

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