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Past And Prospects

by Reinhold Niebuhr

Pub Date: April 1st, 1969
ISBN: 0269671129
Publisher: Praeger

The tendency of the emerging Third World nations to willingly forego democratic government (not to mention capitalism) has led to much soul-searching among American policy-makers. This explanation begins with detailed (occasionally repetitive) analysis of the conditions under which constitutional democracy developed in the West and goes on to show that other factors dominate in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. For example, nationalism was a strong "feeling" in Europe whereas tribalism is a divisive force in new African nations. The West itself escaped a Marxist revolution, according to the authors, only by reform--the inception of widespread suffrage and collective bargaining created an equilibrium of political and economic power that was "an approximation of social justice." In all, this politico-economic analysis is not very different from that of other ranking political scientists--Seymour Lipset in The First New Nation or Barrington Moore in The Social Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship--except that these authors stress nationalism as a factor whereas the others "assume" it. This certainly is a solid study based on the authors' earlier works and a course they taught jointly at Harvard.