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Kings or People: Power and the Mandate to Rule Paperback – April 8, 1980

ISBN-13: 978-0520040908 ISBN-10: 0520040902 Edition: New Ed
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Editorial Reviews


An accessible comparative history of the nations surveyed, and a major contribution to the study of political systems and cultures. -- Kirkus Reviews

From the Inside Flap

“It is difficult to decide which is the more impressive: the authority and control with which Mr. Bendix writes of the traditions, the institutions, and the technological and social developments of cultures as diverse as the British, French, German, Russian, and Japanese, or the skill with which he weaves his separate stories into a persuasive scenario of the modern revolution. A remarkable achievement.”—Gordon A. Craig, Stanford University

"Kings or People is equal to the grandeur of its subject: the political origins of the modern world. With Barrington Moore's Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy and Immanuels Wallerstein's The Modern World System which it matches in boldness, while differing radically in perspective, it is one of the truly powerful ventures in comparative historical sociology to have appeared in recent years."—Clifford Geertz

"A brilliant achievement that will be equally fascinating for the general reader, the student, and the specialized scholar."—Henry W. Ehrmann

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (April 8, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520040902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520040908
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,535,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By César González Rouco on June 6, 2004
As far as I know, there are not many books (i) dealing with monarchy (ii) with a comparative framework (iii) including not only Europe but also other parts of the world and (iv) readable enough for the non-scholarly public. In that sense, Bendix's work seems to me interesting enough to recommend it, in particular those parts dealing with Russia and Japan.

Other books that I would recommend would be "State and status" by Samuel Clark; "Myths of Power. Norbert Elias and the Early Modern European Court " by Jeroen Duindam; "Monarchy, Aristocracy, and the State in Europe, 1300-1800" by Hillay Zmora; "Nobilities in Transition 1550-1700: Courtiers and Rebels in Britain and Europe" by Ronald G. Asch; and "The Persistence of the Ancient Regime" by Arno J. Mayer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James R. Maclean on May 14, 2009
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This book is an exceptionally useful introduction to history as a rigorous philosophical pursuit. Most students of history, of course, have a natural enthusiasm for the subject; but when trying use historical research for understanding something else, one has to grasp the nexus of history and sociology.

It's a thematic history of the evolution of the European and East Asian state; it specifically addresses the motivations of the elites and the decisions they took that led to the development of democracy (or not). The nations examined include Japan, Germany, Russia, England, and France. Bendix focuses his inquiry into the formation of interested groups in each country, and how their power became critical to the survival of the regime. Hence, well before the English Revolution (1642-1660), the urban commoners had considerable strength arising from their role in the sea and coastal trade. This was gradually translated into explicit political power. By contrast, in Russia, the urban commerce unambiguously enhanced the power and incentive of the landlords to exploit the peasants; it tended to fragment Russia economically, while preserving a conservative hierarchy.

Bendix distinguishes between the formation of a state through the development of kingly authority; and the later phase of national development, during which the people acquire decisive powers. The latter occurred mainly because of the former: the king was compelled to mobilize his subjects, usually against the second tier of aristocracy. Government is bureaucratized in order to collect revenues and wage war; but bureaucratization imposes constraints on the kingly power, since the king can do nothing without an educated staff, and the staff risks loss of confidence if it affronts the main economic elites.
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