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Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World Reprint Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807050736
ISBN-10: 0807050733
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Editorial Reviews

Review

A landmark in comparative history and a challenge to scholars of all lands who are trying to learn how we arrived at where we are now. -New York Times Book Review

About the Author

BARRINGTON MOORE, JR is a Lecturer in Sociology at Harvard University and Senior Research Fellow for the University's Russian Centre. He was educated at Williams College, where he took a degree in Greek and Latin, and at Yale University where he gained a PhD in sociology. His book Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy received the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award in political science and the MacIver Award in sociology. He is also the author of Soviet Politics: The Dilemma of Power, Terror and Progress: USSR, Political Power and Social Theory and, with Robert P. Wolff and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance. His most recent book, Reflections on the Causes of Human Misery and upon Certain Proposals to Eliminate Them, was given the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807050733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807050736
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Democratic and totalitarian states might differ on key variables, but both are modern - resting on industrial civilization & the commercialization of agriculture. But how they got there is another matter. At the most general level, Barrington Moore Jr.'s "Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy" seeks to explain differing national paths towards this modernity. More specifically, he seeks to analyze the evolution of modern political systems through their social, economic and institutional bases. Even more specifically, he posits a bold thesis that the particular relationship between peasants and landowners in a given country, more than any other factor, determines whether that country will eventually become democratic, communist, or fascist. And more specifically still, Moore argues that in countries where landowners were able to secure political power independent of the crown, and become bourgeois managers of commercial agriculture in a way that created minimal political grievance among those who worked the land, then the result was capitalist democracy. However, in countries like Russia, China, Germany and Japan where this process was halted, forced, abortive, or out of sequence, then the result was dictatorship. In the communist cases, this dictatorship came about through a revolution from below, spurred on by disgruntled peasants against a non-commercial, non-bourgeois landowning class; while in the fascist cases the modern revolution came down from "above" as landowning elites used the tools of the state (preindustrial bureaucracy) to impose modernity on a politically powerless peasantry.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
In "Social Origins", Barrington Moore conducts a study of economic, social and political change in the modern era. Moore survey's modern societies from England to Japan comparing social and economic structures with emphasis on class stratification.
Moore uses a hybrid Marxist analysis and turns it on its head by finding common conditions favorable to democracies and conditions that lead to fascist and commmunist dictatorships. Moore finds some common factors to successful transition to include a need for social change to accompany technological change, the strength of a "middle class" and the need to address the concerns of agrarian society.
In the end Moore believes that the industrial change took place at great cost in every society. The key to successful transistion to democracy was in how this "industrial revolution" was implemented.
Whether one agrees totally or not, "Social Origins" never ceases to be stimulating in its analysis.
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Format: Paperback
Moore is an intellectual tour de force. In this book he attempts to explain how democracy developed in some states, while other, seemingly similar, states turned to fascism and authoritarianism. While I certainly cannot cogently summarize Moore in a small paragraph, it remains a book and an argument that needs dissemination. In general, the key to understanding how states develop is to understand the balance of class power within each society. The choice of regime, or rather the regime type that develops within a state, is determined by the dominant class and with whom that class aligns. According to Moore democracy develops if the bourgeoisie gains enough power to break the hold of the aristocracy and the failure to do so can not only doom democracy, but it also raises the possibility of fascism. Moore supplements his theoretical augments with an ample amount of well-analyzed historical case studies. In the end, even if one does not agree with his arguments or conclusions, the book still needs to be read, understood, and engaged by anyone who wants to understand democratization.
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Format: Paperback
Moore seeks to examine the paths to modernity adopted by various countries and the subsequent political outcomes. Principally, more concentrates on the emergence of democracy, fascism, and communism. Moore argues that each path to modernization is characterized by a certain level of revolution. The driving factor to the development of the political path is at which level in society does the revolution begin; the aristocracy (above), the bourgeoisie (middle), or the peasant (below)? As such, the dependent variable can be summed up as political systems, while the independent variables stem from class interactions (landed aristocracy, the state, bourgeoisie, and peasant). Of particular importance for Moore is the relationship between the landed aristocracy and the state. In situations where the aristocracy is weak, the potential for peasant revolution is great. In situations where the state is strong, it retains the coercive force to repress potential uprisings. These relationships, coupled with the relationship between agriculture and commerce - particularly whether or not the landed aristocracy has made a move towards the commercialization of agriculture.

Moore begins his work in discussing the capitalistic, democratic path to modernity as characterized by England, France, and the United States. In the case of England, the landed aristocracy moved towards the commercialization of agriculture. This essentially eliminated the wide peasant base from the equation, thus removing a potentially revolutionary class. Additionally, the move towards commercialized agriculture decreased the power of the absolutist Crown. Furthermore, the commercialization of agriculture leads to the development of towns and a trading class (bourgeoisie).
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