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Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect Paperback – April 27, 2010
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"This is an exemplary deployment of great past thinkers in an intensely provocative, deliberately controversial meditation on the profound strengths and weaknesses or dangers in our political culture."-Thomas L. Pangle, author of Montesquieu''s Philosophy of Liberalism: A Commentary on the Spirit of the Laws -- Thomas L. Pange
Top Customer Reviews
There is also a polemical part to Rahe's book. Paul Rahe is more than concerned about the administrative state here in the United States which he believes erodes our liberties as a result of bureaucrats exercise greater control of our daily lives. He finds that this shift occurred as a result of the Progressive Era's devaluation of our founding documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Although that may be a part of the analysis, it would appear to be somewhat incomplete. As I understand the Progressive Era, it was a reaction to political corruption in which it was believed that the political system could not be trusted. Instead, it was believed that solutions to political problems could only be solved outside of this corrupt system through neutral expertise. The failure of the Progressive Era was that it did not see that the neutral expert would become vested in the system or bureaucracy that he or she created.
In his conclusion, Paul Rahe somewhat softens his rhetoric against the administrative state.Read more ›
It is useful to review a quote from de Tocqueville that the author puts in his conclusion:
"Certain peoples pursue liberty obstinately in the face of all sorts of perils and misfortunes. It is not the material goods that it offers them that these peoples then love in it; they consider it itself as a good so precious and so necessary that no other good console them for its loss and that they find, in tasting it, consolation for everything that occurs.Read more ›
Although it is a scholarly work, it effectively demonstrates the slippery slope the US and other Western democracies have been on as they've slid semi-consciously towards depotism and tyranny at the hands of an ever more powerful nanny state. While this is clearly be the author's personal belief, the most compelling testimony comes from the likes of Alexis de Tocqueville, who anticipated today's trends over a century ago. Seeing today's reality as the manifestation of the worst fears of yesterday's best minds proves to be a powerful message.
The book is full of wonderful quotations from Tocquevill and others, including one of my favorites: "...finally it reduces each nation to nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd". If you've never been exposed to the likes of Montesquie or Rousseau, their thoughts will prove haunting when you think about them in today's context.
Unfortunately, while Dr. Rahe's work is well-written and no doubt meticulously researched, it's not likely to be subject matter for some mass-market TV series. His important message is therefore likely to remain unheard, until perhaps it becomes too late to reverse the trends he speaks about. That is the real tragedy of our times.
Recommended without reservation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For any reader who truly wants to understand the roots of American exceptionalism and what has been happening to undermine those very roots.Published 23 days ago by Utah Customer
Found item easily on Amazon, item works as expected, good price good item very happy.Published 23 months ago by Stanley R. Smith
Read Montesquiew, Rousseau, and Tocqueville before this book. twelve more words may be required butthey are not needed nor will be provided.Published on February 4, 2013 by Jim Shaffer
An important new book for students of history and anyone interested in the direction of modern democratic societies. Read morePublished on August 31, 2010 by Mark at Every Good Path
I would really like to have given this book five stars AND one star as a mark of its profound internal contradictions and the reactions it is likely to provoke in someone who... Read morePublished on July 12, 2010 by Bobby Watson
This is an extraordinary book offering a very detailed and superbly integrated examination of the consistencies and differences among Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville, both... Read morePublished on October 12, 2009 by Robert David STEELE Vivas
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in conservatism, our founding, and what could be done to get our country back on the right track towards liberty for all. Read morePublished on August 23, 2009 by Al from Chicago