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Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred Hardcover – March 8, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Lukacs has written imaginatively (A Thread of Years, 1998) and persuasively (At the End of an Age, 2002) about the present as the conclusion of an era. That he also descries the rough beast shuffling on the immediate horizon this concentrated discussion of political modes and motivations attests. Aristocracy and monarchy died in the modern era, and democracy prevails as the regnant form of governance. Moreover, such styles of democracy as socialism and liberalism have failed, overpowered by nationalism and populism; for instance, Russia turned from an international to a national socialism under Stalin and never reverted, while the prevalence of politics by poll and publicity in the West has marginalized political parties, encouraged charismatic candidates, and led politicians to be concerned with what "the people" want. The temptations of crude majoritarianism and of strongmen embodying national destinies are rampant. Lukacs believes deeply in the power of ideas and insists upon defining terms precisely, based on their actual usage and effects; this accounts for some of the most striking passages, such as his discrimination of fascism from national socialism, in a book so dense and cogent that many will want to read it repeatedly and refer to it often. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (March 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300107730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300107739
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,272,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 77 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on May 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Those expecting a thorough, organized treatment of democracy and populism will be somewhat disappointed by this book. Lukacs, an eminent conservative historian, wanders disjointedly over the political landscape of the last two hundred years making any number of observations, assertions, and rather blunt criticisms of other chroniclers of the era, including historian Richard Hoftstadter and Hannah Arendt, the author of "The Origins of Totalitarianism," described as a "muddled and dishonest writer." A burden is placed on the reader to sift through the fragmented commentary to separate substance from overstatement and inconsistencies and to locate, if not construct, main themes.

The subtitle, "Fear and Hatred," gives some indication of the direction that the author is headed. It is thought processes and psychology that are important in a mass democracy: "our concern must be with how people think, how they choose to think, including how they are influenced or impressed to think and speak." Fear and hatred are central concerns. He rejects the Freudian notion that they operate subconsciously, rather than being purposely chosen.

The author tags 1870 as a time of fundamental rearrangement of political forces. The rise and attraction of socialism and nationalism basically shoved aside the older liberal, conservative debate, though that debate lingers today. Interestingly, and probably correctly, he points out that none of the political parties in the 19th century US were truly conservative. The rise of socialism, or the Welfare state, merely reflected the new Darwinian perspective of constant social "progress." The author's assertion that the entire globe is now socialist is not much of an overreach.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Carlos A. Santayana on August 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This book explains modern history and current trends in a clear and compelling way. Written in 2005, "Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred", exposes ascendant populism in the U.S. as susceptible to mass marketed demagoguery. Appeals to emotion through entertainment and media are packaged as news but are actually a mutant infotainment. This spawns a public fed on pap and emotionally powerful urges and images. As philosophy and history are replaced with political sloganeering, the vitality of liberal democracy is sapping away. The book takes a surprising turn as he criticizes pornography, sexual permissiveness, abortion and cloning. It convicts our elites with intellectual sloppiness and spiritual ego-centrism. This decline promotes amorality (truth is irrelevant when what matters is what the masses feel). Amorality makes way for personal depravity and public corruption. The book is a requiem for the elite standards we once, however unsuccessfully, aspired to. Populists drain, without replenishment, the cultural and material patrimony elites once produced by a shared struggle to achieve moral greatness.
In his books, the theme is embedded, also posited by Alexis de Tocqueville, that traditional aristocratic elites have been replaced by new democratic elites. These new elites keep power by appealing to the masses; an appeal that prostitutes their intellectual and financial resources to the lowest element; a prostitution that has a denigrating effect on aesthetics and ethics. In 2002, he wrote another book, “At the End of an Age”, where he forecasts the end of the modern era which he says began with the Renaissance. He traces a decline in chivalrous and honorable conduct to the kind of skyrocketing vulgarity that is now epidemic throughout the world.
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12 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jorge Kersman on December 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(I am not of english speaking origin so please excuse errors and poor gramatics)
After having read the "Big" books of Mr. Lukacs with enormous pleasure, this is a big disappointment.
No clear thinking, that traduces in quite confusing writing. Plain vanity at a very high level. The author not only disavows reputed writers and historians, with just a couple of phrases: he also denies common wisdom with a "not so" and no more explanations. It seems like his purpose is "èpater le bourgeois" once and then again.
He "opens" themes that never come to fruition, meanders in a way impossible to follow, confuses the reader without evidently having made the effort to stream his lines of thought.
All this may be attributed to decay, old age of the author, lack of something new to say or just laziness.
But there is too a more malign component, if that is the word. The author simply cannot ignore he is lying when he asserts:
1) That Hitler and the Nazi Party evolved from a mere 2% of the vote, arriving to "more than 43 in March 1933". Everibody who knows anything about the Third Reich, knows that those last elections were rigged and fiercely manipulated. (See Richard Evans "The Third Reich in Power" for a detailed explanation). But in this precise point of the authors discourse (page 97) it is convenient for Mr. Lukacs to show that the Nazis had a substantial percentage of the vote. He, of all authors can not ignore the above.
2) Why on earth to lie again on this aspect of Hitler's personality: (Page 209): "He (Hitler) was no sadist, he took no particular pleasure in watching, or even being informed about the sufferings of his declared enemies".
Again, Mr. Lukacs cannot ignore the infamous films that Hitler had made of the slow dying of the conspirators of July 44.
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