The Situation of Democracy: Western Political Institutions in the Twentieth Century

"The Situation of Democracy: Western Political Institutions in the Twentieth Century," Daedalus, v90 n2 (Spring, 1961): 350-370.


Fifteen years after the armistice of 1918 Hitler was Chancellor of the Reich, Mussolini and prime minister of a Fascist Italy, and the central and eastern European countries, with the exception of Czechoslovakia, had suspended the functioning of representative institutions and were being governed by authoritarian or despotic methods of one kind or another. At the same time, democracy was generating into fascism (if one agrees to apply this name to the purely authoritarian or single party regimes which were rising up against communism and parliamentary governments), and the more or less real communist menace was being pointed up to justify this recourse to violence.

What is the picture at the present time, fifteen years after the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich? The European countries which, after the 1st war, had preserved constitutional regimes based on a multiparty system, pertained them after the seconds. These regimes have become far more stable and are more widely accepted than they were in the 1930s. Austria and Germany have, at least in appearance, joined the group of democracies which we shall call stabilized democracies.