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Counter-Democracy: Politics in an Age of…

Counter-Democracy: Politics in an Age of Distrust

by Pierre Rosanvallon

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First I wasn't sure if I should blame my lack of comprehension on the Finnish translation or the original text. But the further I read, the more convinced I became that the author himself was to blame. His starting point is interesting enough: he sets out to show that opposition, resistance and surveillance by the people are fundamental characteristics of modern democracy, just like voting and representation. His intention is to provide a theoretical presentation of these forms of "counter-democracy". Interesting as this may sound, the author doesn't actually possess much capacity for theoretical argument. He does seem to know the history of French political thought inside and out. Many of his analyses employ a strictly historical method, explaining what late 18th and early 19th century French thinkers thought about the subject. But surely the theoretical questions of that age don't exhaust the contemporary ones.

There are some sections in this book where the author tries to build his own theoretical counterpoints and analyze modern politics, but I found them very unfulfilling. He introduces half a dozen new prefixes to the word "democracy", but fails to support these neologisms with enough thought and reason to give them any real meaning. The text comes across as vacuous ostentation and wordplay with little depth. In conclusion this book was useful to me only because it introduced me to many 18th and 19th century French thinkers I hadn't heard of before. The author's strength clearly lies in that subject area.
  thcson | Oct 7, 2014 |
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