Opinion How Democracies Perish The New York Everybody agrees society is in a bad way, but what exactly is the main cause of the badness Some people emphasize economic issues The simultaneous How Democracies Perish Jean Francois Revel, How Democracies Perish Jean Francois Revel, Branko M Lazic on FREE shipping on qualifying offers Argues that the modern democracies are endangered How Democracies Perish Jean Franois Revel Does democracy have within it the seeds of its own demise Excerpts from Jean Franois Revel s How Democracies Perish Comment les dmocraties How Democracies Perish Claremont Institute or some time, prominent American conservative intellectuals dissidents, as Ryszard Legutko of Krakow s Jagiellonian University might describe them have been How Democracies Perish Preaching Today David Brooks, How Democracies Perish, New York Times Opinion How Democracies Perish by Jean Franois Revel How Democracies Perish has ratings and reviews Todd said Basically a look at why relatively free countries were on the defensive and apparently lo How Democracies Perish Foreign Affairs A bitter indictment of Western democracies, especially Europe s, for failing to understand and to counter Soviet expansionism Revel, a well known How democracies perish Book, WorldCat Get this from a library How democracies perish Jean Franois Revel How Democracies Perish How Democracies Perish Jean Franois Revel, William Byron on FREE shipping on qualifying offers. Jean Franois Revel Wikipedia Jean Franois Revel born Jean Franois Ricard January April was a French journalist, philosopher, How Democracies Perish....
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How Democracies Perish Reviews
Basically a look at why relatively free countries were on the defensive and apparently losing in the struggle against Communism, Revel reviews the weaknesses of free societies, to include their own lack of cultural confidence, as well as freedoms that could be (and were) exploited by totalitarian enemies. Revel's more dire predictions initially seem laughable in light of actual events, but one must remember that the Soviet Union's collapse was not inevitable. In fact, it was precisely by breaking from the mold of unilateral concession and weakness that President Reagan (and Prime Minister Thatcher and Pope Jean Paul II) were able to perhaps significantly alter the balance. For today's reader, while the specific Cold War events are of perhaps only historical interest, the lesson he draws are equally applicable to today's totalitarian enemies of freedom, especially the Islamic extremists (or whichever term for them you prefer).Today's well-meaning "useful idiots" within relatively free societies certainly seek peace through all the wrong means, to include censoring themselves and their countrymen, offering unilateral concessions and accommodations, worrying that effective means of combating the enemy might actually somehow help the adversary, finding false moral equivalencies, etc. And just like under Communism, those who are hurt most and first are those swallowed up by such extremism and given away by the West as somehow being the "rightful" property of today's totalitarians, as if we can (or should) merely be content with containing a totalitarianism with openly-espoused goals of global domination.Another recurring theme in Revel's work is that there ARE NO "moderates" in totalitarian regimes and it is a fool's errand to try to play off "hawks" versus "doves" in such regimes. For instance, the "moderates" of the Khomeini regime in Iran would be considered lunatics in most any other country. And looking to support "moderates" in Iran has humiliated every government that has attempted to do so from the time of Iran-Contra until today. Revel strikingly supports this principle with looks at serial attempts by Western leaders to do just this with the Soviet Union and the utter failure of such attempts, not to mention Western leaders similar attempts and failures with the Hitler regime (see p 219). If only Revel had waited until after Reagan did just the opposite with Gorbachev in Iceland to publish, and show the spectacular results of following Revel's advice...In Revel's own words, "The peculiarity and the advantage of military superiority consist precisely in obtaining without going to war the same results that a war would bring. This is, indeed, the only constant law of diplomacy." (p 78)Revel quotes at length from Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky in terms of trying to work with and encourage "moderates," a biting critique that could apply to Western leaders optimistic assessments of any totalitarian leader anywhere, unfortunately (think Bashar al-Asad, Vladimir Putin, leaders of the PRC...):Andropov the liberal...Think of it! He speaks English, he likes jazz. He has a Hungarian tailor. He listens to BBC...He is very Westernized. Don't discourage him. Show him he has our good wishes, anticipate his goodwill, support him against the hawks in the Kremlin. The success of the Andropov opening will depend on the West. (p 277)Revel was not unaware of totalitarianism's weaknesses--in fact, he catalogued them and expressed his surprise that the West was not better at exploiting them. For instance, totalitarian leaders had to enclose their own people and shelter them from the truth so long as there was any territory not dominated by them and their worldview. (p 91) The reasons for this failure are Western leaders' failure to learn from history, distrust of predecessors, and frequent turnover. (p 104) Or as he says elsewhere, "Western statesmen do not study history; they wait until they are elected to begin their on-the-job reading." (p 294) Revel likewise examined the tangible economic failures of Communism throughout.Revel especially delves into the peculiar weaknesses of Western pacifists, "someone who ultimately sees himself as the only potential aggressor and concludes from this that by ostentatiously laying down his own arms he will avoid all danger of war in the world." (p 149) The Soviets were fond of using people's natural desire for peace and aversion to war for powerful propaganda.So what to do about propaganda?Ideology is a lie, Communist ideology is a total lie extended to all aspects of reality. Suggesting that free thought defend itself by inventing a systematized counterfantasy amounts merely to proposing that it commit suicide to avoid being killed. While it is true that nothing more effectively obliterates a mirage than another mirage, it is equally true that democratic civilization should not and cannot survive except by opposing its power of thought to ideology, its sense of reality to the totalitarian lie; its job is to fight propaganda not with counterpropaganda but with truth. (pp 162-163) This is something that Mark Steyn could completely agree with, though Jacques Ellul might express his own reservations to it.Revel even gets into the tactics of tyrannies besting free societies: "if you want to present the democracies with a fait accompli, do it over a weekend." (p 235) A truism that, unfortunately, still holds (the Benghazi attack on a Friday night, anyone?).Revel certainly does not excuse his own country or its leaders from their culpability in pandering to the Soviet Union and weakening Western unity and resolve. For instance, Revel criticizes Charles de Gaulle, "since a statesman is not supposed to behave like an offended prima donna eager to revenge her outraged pride, but like a leader responsible for the destinies of millions of people, the reasons, good or bad, for his rancor leave me cold...In a democracy, a statesman has no right to be touchy except in the name of the country he governs and the basic interests of his constituents." (p 258)Revel boldly tackles the problem of the West siding with illiberal allies in the struggle against greater totalitarianism. He essentially points out that if the West is not allowed to safeguard even despicable regimes from Communist aggression, then they will not be improved in a political or human rights sense, and likely impoverished even worse economically. It is precisely in this area where the issue of false moral equivalency is most employed, showing that since the West has some faults, it is essentially as bad as the Gulags, deliberate famines, and other horrors of totalitarianism. Likewise, economic advances in pro-Western countries are frequently dismissed, minimized, or even criticized in terms of what they fail to accomplish all the while even the slightest improvements in Communist countries (in the rare instances where they might have occurred) are met with fanfare.Some of Revel's insights are of even more general application; take, for instance, his look at the paralysis of Liberal societies owing to internal fractures:By invading every area of life, the democratic state has stuffed itself with more responsibilities than powers. The very contradictions among special interests that are as legitimate as they are incompatible, all expecting to be treated with equal goodwill, show that the state's duties are expanding faster that its means of performing them. There is no denying how burdensome a tutelary government is on society--provided we add that its expansion makes it vulnerable, often paralyzing it in its relations with client groups that are quicker to harry it than to obey it. (p 14)Overall, although the work is dated, it is of both historical interest in terms of the specific events of the Cold War, and of current interest in the more general (and ongoing) struggle of free societies against totalitarianism. The text is moderately easy to read, except for a few spots which might be blamed on awkward translation. A good read.
Random quotes from the book that I found interesting:“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself...Democratic civilization is the first in history to blame itself because another power is working to destroy it.”“Democratic civilization is the first in history to blame itself because another power is working to destroy it. The distinguishing mark of our century is not so much communism’s determination to erase democracy from our planet, or its frequent success in pursuing that end, as it is the humility with which democracy is not only consenting to its own obliteration but is contriving to legitimize its deadliest enemy’s victory.”"Democracy may, after all, turn out to have been a historical accident, a brief parenthesis that is closing before our eyes.”“Democracy probably could have endured if it had been the only type of political organization in the world. But it is not basically structured to defend itself against outside enemies seeking its annihilation... In addition to its external enemy democracy faces an internal enemy whose right to exist is written into the law itself... Democracy can defend itself only very feebly; its internal enemy has an easy time of it because he exploits the right to disagree that is inherent in democracy. His aim of destroying democracy itself, of actively seeking an absolute monopoly of power, is shrewdly hidden behind the citizens legitimate right to oppose and criticize the system.""What we end up with in what is conventionally called Western society is a topsy-turvy situation in which those seeking to destroy democracy appear to be fighting for legitimate aims, while its defenders are pictured as repressive reactionaries. Identification of democracies internal and external adversaries with the forces of progress, legitimacy, even peace, discredits and paralyzes the efforts of people who are only trying to preserve their institutions."“Democracy tends to ignore, even deny, threats to its existence because it loathes what is needed to fight them. It wakens only when the danger becomes deadly, imminent, evident. By then, either there is too little time left for it to save itself, for the price of survival has become crushingly high.”“Democracies are harassed by guilt producing accusations and intimidation that no other political system test to tolerate. Democracy is not given credit for achievements and benefits, but it pays an infinitely higher price for its failures, its inadequacies, and its mistakes then its adversaries do.”"Democratic civilization is the first in history to blame myself because another power is working to destroy it. The danger of our century is not so much communism in its determination to erase democracy from our planet, or its frequent success in pursuing that end, as it is the humility with which to democracy is not only consenting to its own obliteration but is contriving to legitimize its deadliest enemies victory.""Not only do the democracies today blame themselves for sins they have not committed, but they have formed the habit of judging themselves by ideals so inaccessible that the defendants are automatically guilty. It follows that a civilization which feels guilty for everything it is and does and thinks will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself when its existence is threatened. Drilling into a civilization that it deserves defending only if it can incarnate absolute justice is tantamount to urging that it let itself die or be enslaved.""A society rebels against authority in proportion as it's needs are met. The more largely claims are satisfied, the more aggressively they are made, especially when there is hope of constantly gaining further advantages. It is not stagnation that breeds revolution, not repression, but progress, because it has already created the wealth that makes revolution viable." "It is the supreme injustice of terrorism that the political regimes it can most easily attack are those in which it is superfluous: the democracies. Terrorism is unnecessary there because it is the democracies that provide procedures for nonviolent opposition. But terrorism is easy there because the democracies are also the sole regimes that cannot, without destroying themselves, tolerate close police control and all the other repressive shortcuts that, unfortunately, are the most efficient ways to stamp out subversion. A democracy cannot employ one citizen in five in the police, cannot close its borders, restrict travel inside the country, deport part of a city's population if necessary, keep an eye on every hotel, every building, every apartment on every floor, spend hours scrupulously searching travelers' cars and luggage - all travelers'. If the democracies could borrow these totalitarian tricks, they would soon enough liquidate terrorism at home and intercept aid coming to it from abroad."
Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 11, as one of Eight Books on the Topic of Utopianism and Coercion.