Democracy and Civil Society

Democracy and Civil Society:On the Predicaments of European Socialism, the Prospects for Democracy, and the Problem of Controlling Social and Political Power

  • Paperback

This book examines an age-old European theme - democracy. It reconsiders the central themes in modem democratic thought and soberly assesses the serious dangers now facing democratic institutions throughout Europe.

When Edmund Burke remarked in 1790 that a perfect democracy was the most shameless thing in the world, he was summarizing two thousand years of resistance by the powerful to both the legitimacy and advance of democracy. Since that time, the concept of 'democracy' has gained in respectability while coming, paradoxically, under threat from all sides. One of the most alarming threats, argues Keane, is the failure of the democratic imagination itself.

John Keane's work gives new life to that democratic imagination. In his brilliant use of the essay form, he has produced a book which is uncompromisingly pluralist, cosmopolitan and historically informed. Its scope extends from such topics as sovereignty, revolution, ideology, 'invisible' state power and neo-conservatism, to new issues. including unemployment, the erosion of party politics. and the growth of social movements.


  • Probing, lucid and historically informed, these fine and timely essays offer new perspectives in rethinking socialism.

    Steven Lukes
  • The various political shifts and upheavals within the communist world all have one thing in common: the undying urge to create a genuine civil society. This book brilliantly explains why.

    Vaclav Havel