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Fugitive DemocracyAnd Other Essays$
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Sheldon S. Wolin and Nicholas Xenos

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691133645

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691133645.001.0001

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What Revolutionary Action Means Today

What Revolutionary Action Means Today

(p.368) Chapter 20 What Revolutionary Action Means Today
Fugitive Democracy

Sheldon S. Wolin

, Nicholas Xenos
Princeton University Press

Tocqueville claimed that American democracy had eliminated the causes of revolution. He believed that the revolutionary impulse would wither because for the first time in Western history the masses of ordinary human beings had a tangible stake in defending the status quo. This chapter, however, asks, is it right for the democratic citizen to undertake revolutionary action when the political system retains some of the formal features of democracy but is clearly embarked on a course that is progressively antidemocratic without being crudely repressive? What are the precise ways in which a system that is formally democratic conceals its antidemocratic tendencies? Are pseudo-democratic substitutes introduced that create the illusion of democracy? Was the idea of a democratic citizen partially skewed at the outset so that its development in America was truncated? And, finally, does it make sense even to discuss the possibility of revolution under the circumstances of an advanced, complex society? In what terms would it make sense to talk of revolution today—what would revolutionary action by democratic citizens be?

Keywords:   Tocqueville, American democracy, political theory, revolution

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