Democracy In Modern France
By Nick Hewlett
Continuum – £25.00
As Nick Hewlett makes clear in his Introduction to Democracy in Modern France: ‘’There already exists in French and even more so in English a flourishing literature on theories of democracy, an area on which political theorists have spent much time over the last two decades.’’
Dare one perhaps add, that theorists have spent much time deliberating the various strands of democracy for centuries. Indeed, some would argue that current day (French) democracy was triggered as a direct result of the French Revolution of 1789.
Yet for all the debate and all the analysis, democracy is fundamentally fluidic in both nature and design. Hence the continuing debate. Hence democracy’s continuing evolution – a pristine, powerful trajectory, fought over and fraught with (social) mayhem, occasional (political) madness and interspersed with (deplorable) murder.
With the aforementioned in mind, this book is indeed a welcome contribution to the Politics, Culture and Society in the New Europe series. Written in a clear and concise manner, Hewlett considers an overtly dense subject in such a way as to be understood by Everyman – which, given the numerous strands of democracy (liberal democracy, associative democracy, deliberative democracy, utilitarian democracy et al) really is no mean feat.
Moreover, as Hewlett stresses: ‘’I draw on a range of established disciplines, including history, political economy, and to some extent political philosophy, but without going out of my way to be ‘interdisciplinary.’ To be influenced by the approaches of various different traditional disciplines should neither be a given nor an obligation, but I do believe that we need to feel able to explore social reality as a whole, rather than to pretend there is a point at which, say, history or sociology stop and political philosophy or political science take over.’’
By examining the implications for modern democracy within a sphere of social and profound political conflict(s) in France; and offering an unorthodox assessment of its institutions, structures and formal politics, Nick Hewlett suggests that their relationship with democracy per se, is far more tenuous than is inadvertently assumed.
With President Nicolas Sarkozy at the current helm of French democracy, the latter is hardly surprising. For if ever a punchline were needed for meliorist democracy, surely he’d be it.