KINGS OR PEOPLE: Power and the Mandate to Rule by Reinhard Bendix

KINGS OR PEOPLE: Power and the Mandate to Rule

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Political power cannot be based on coercion alone--it must be supported by reasons; i.e., it must be legitimated. Bendix, a Berkeley political scientist in the Weberian mold, identifies two broad contexts of legitimacy--divine sanction and popular mandate--and synthesizes an enormous range of scholarly material on these two forms of rule. Separate chapters on England, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan survey the contours of each form within a specific national context--from the rise of the Yamato dynasty in 4th-century Japan to the collapse of the Romanovs, from the erosion of monarchic rule in England to the development of the Soviet state. Bendix emphasizes that monarchic rule is weak on at least two grounds: appeal to divine legitimacy can be turned against a ruler by either ecclesiastic or popular access to sacred rites and knowledge; and fragmentation (the necessary delegation of authority) sets up possible challenges to central authority and reinforces pre-existing factional conflicts. Because they rest on a similar claim to legitimacy, Bendix includes both monarchy and aristocracy within this first form of rule--thereby illustrating a problem inherent in such schematic studies, since the particular relationship obtaining between aristocracies and monarchies plays a crucial role in the historical development of different nations. But the problem, if unresolved, is not concealed in Bendix's formulation. On a scale comparable to works by Weber, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Perry Anderson, this huge book is an accessible comparative history of the nations surveyed, and a major contribution to the study of political systems and cultures.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1978
Publisher: Univ. of California Press