DEMOCRACY AGAINST ITSELF by Jean-Francois Revel

DEMOCRACY AGAINST ITSELF

The Future of the Democratic Impulse

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The elder-statesman/philosopher of the French right ponderously warns that humanity must choose between ``democratic capitalism or extinction,'' and calls for ``liberal democracies'' to assert their ``right to intervene'' in other nations' affairs. Revel (The Flight from Truth, 1991, etc.) marginalizes his argument by noting that this book is about ``the search for the best political system available, or at any rate the least pernicious one.'' He never specifies exactly which democracies should intervene against the likes of a Saddam Hussein, or by whose authority or at whose behest. But Revel believes that, however imperfect, it's the Free World's responsibility to forcefully curb arms proliferation in the Third World, to stop the spread of AIDS, to mandate agrarian reform, and to level punitive measures against any country that allows destructive fishing practices. As for the ``collapse'' of Communism, we must still be vigilant: The rise to democracy is incomplete, and it's ``easier to return to democracy from a fascist military dictatorship than from a socialist- progressive dictatorship.'' While ``liberal democratic capitalism'' may have its imperfections, ``what we know about all the tested alternatives...is that they have no qualities.'' Former Communist states are ``abnormal societies'' that can become normal again--but not through the reforms of a Gorbachev or ``the celebrated `third way' '' of democratic socialism. Normalcy can be achieved only by destroying all vestiges of totalitarianism. As democracy spreads, though, problems arise due ``to a return of national, local, and individual particularities''--and so does Revel explain and seem to excuse the strife in Bosnia, French racism, and the rise of neo- Nazism in Germany. In Revel's view, apparently, ``democracy'' need no longer be representative or born of idealism: It need only claim the name.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1993
ISBN: 0-02-926387-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993




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