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Against the MassesVarieties of Anti-Democratic Thought Since the French Revolution$
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Joseph V. Femia

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198280637

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198280637.001.0001

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Introduction and Preview

Introduction and Preview

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(p.1) 1 Introduction and Preview
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Against the Masses
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Joseph V. Femia (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198280637.003.0001

After discussing the various definitions of democracy, the chapter laments the paucity and inadequacy of the literature on anti‐democratic thought. Hirschman's three categories of ‘reactionary’ thought—perversity, futility, and jeopardy—are then introduced and defended. The perversity thesis holds that progressive reformers will achieve the opposite of what they intended; the futility thesis claims that they will achieve nothing at all (owing to the refractory nature of reality); and the jeopardy thesis expresses the fear that any success they might have would be at the expense of cherished values. The chapter maintains that all anti‐democratic thought can be fitted into these categories, and that anti‐democratic arguments rely, in the main, on the idea of unanticipated consequences.

Keywords:   anti‐democratic thought, democracy, futility thesis, Hirschman, jeopardy thesis, perversity thesis, reactionary thought, unanticipated consequences

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