DEMOCRACY AND POPULISM: Fear and Hatred

John Lukacs, Author . Yale Univ. $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-300-10773-9

A prolific historian and theorist of international relations, Lukacs (The Hitler of History ) offers a compact view of political change in Europe and the United States from the Napoleonic Wars to the present, with a particular focus on his area of expertise, WWII and the decades just before and after. For him, Western democracy as we have known it may have already begun to follow a course similar to that of Nazi Germany, where demagogic populists seized power, took control of the media and brainwashed their way through subsequent "elections." Lukacs derides familiar models of modern politics that pit liberals against conservatives; true conservatives, who stress aristocracy and traditional authority, have (he argues) been in decline since at least 1870. Instead, modern history shows a steady increase in popular sovereignty, in the power of public opinion and in the appeal of aggressive nationalism, which tends to control that opinion given a chance—with the aid of mass media. Lukacs decries the "devolution of liberal democracy into populism" and "popular nationalism," especially but not only under George W. Bush. He also decries gay marriage, television, contemporary feminism, "permissiveness" and American "decadence." His hauteur, fast pace and frequently cantankerous asides may impede what is otherwise a thoughtful warning from a very knowledgeable source. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/21/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-300-11693-9
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