The Inner Enemies of Democracy
The Inner Enemies of Democracy

The political history of the twentieth century can be viewed asthe history of democracy’s struggle against its externalenemies: fascism and communism. This struggle ended with the fallof the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet regime. Somepeople think that democracy now faces new enemies: Islamicfundamentalism, religious extremism and internationalterrorism and that this is the struggle that will define ourtimes. Todorov disagrees: the biggest threat to democracy today isdemocracy itself. Its enemies are within: what the ancient Greekscalled 'hubris'.

Todorov argues that certain democratic values have beendistorted and pushed to an extreme that serves the interests ofdominant states and powerful individuals. In the name of‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’, the UnitedStates and some European countries have embarked on a crusade toenlighten some foreign populations through the use of force. Yetthis mission to ‘help’ others has led to Abu Ghraib andGuantanamo, to large-scale destruction and loss of life and to amoral crisis of growing proportions. The defence of freedom, ifunlimited, can lead to the tyranny of individuals.

Drawing on recent history as well as his own experience ofgrowing up in a totalitarian regime, Todorov returns to examplesborrowed from the Western canon: from a dispute between Augustineand Pelagius to the fierce debates among Enlightenmentthinkers to explore the origin of these perversions ofdemocracy. He argues compellingly that the real democratic ideal isto be found in the delicate, ever-changing balance betweencompeting principles, popular sovereignty, freedom and progress.When one of these elements breaks free and turns into anover-riding principle, it becomes dangerous: populism,ultra-liberalism and messianism, the inner enemies ofdemocracy.

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  • October 2014
  • 200 pages
  • 145 x 219 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $14.95
  • 9780745685748
  • Open eBook $9.99
  • 9780745685786
Table of Contents

1 Democracy and its Discontents 1

The paradoxes of freedom 1

External and internal enemies 4

Democracy threatened by its own hubris 7

2 An Ancient Controversy 12

The main characters 12

Pelagius: will and perfection 14

Augustine: the unconscious and original sin 19

The outcome of the debate 22

3 Political Messianism 29

The revolutionary moment 29

The first wave: revolutionary and colonial wars 33

The second wave: the Communist project 37

The third wave: imposing democracy by bombs 45

The Iraq war 48

The internal damage: torture 50

The war in Afghanistan 53

The temptations of pride and power 57

The war in Libya: the decision 59

The war in Libya: the implementation 62

Idealists and realists 67

Politics in the face of morality and justice 71

4 The Tyranny of Individuals 78

Protecting individuals 78

Explaining human behaviour 81

Communism and neoliberalism 87

The fundamentalist temptation 91

Neoliberalism’s blind spots 97

Freedom and attachment 101

5 The Effects of Neoliberalism 104

Blame it on science? 104

The law retreats 109

Loss of meaning 113

Management techniques 116

The power of the media 125

Freedom of public speech 128

The limits of freedom 134

6 Populism and Xenophobia 139

The rise of populism 139

Populist discourse 142

National identity 147

Down with multiculturalism: the German case 150

Britain and France 153

The debate about headscarves 156

One debate can hide another 162

Relations with foreigners 166

Living together better 168

7 The Future of Democracy 173

Democracy, dream and reality 173

The enemy within us 179

Towards renewal? 184

Notes 189

Index 197

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Reviews

One of the great intellectuals of our time.
Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University


This is a voice to be listened to attentively, for our sharedplanetary home's and all its residents' sake.
Zygmunt Bauman, University of Leeds

Now, of all times, there is a need for cool heads, such asTodorov, who approaches the limits of free speech with admirabledexterity.
The New York Review of Books


A coherent, relevant work in which intelligence and sincerehumanism do battle Ð a world away from the slippery moralizingof intellectual fence-sitters.
Le Nouvel Observateur

Todorov’s work is that of a sage, a man who has read thegreat texts, who has lived through two political regimes, and whodares to express an idea that may seem at odds with his ferventdefence of freedom and democracy: freedom for its own sake, freedomthat forgets its duties and responsibilities, is self-destructive.What he writes is never ordinary, but always tolerant and lifeaffirming.
L’Echo

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