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Democracy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 10 Oct 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (10 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019280250X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802507
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 1 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Bernard Crick, formerly Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, London. He was author of In Defence of Politics - hailed as a modern classic and in print since 1962. He is also author of the prize-winning George Orwell: A Life and of Essays on Citizenship, and, Crossing Borders. He was adviser on citizenship to the Department of Education from 1998 to 2001.

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ben Saunders VINE VOICE on 19 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
Bernard Crick's Very Short Introduction to Democracy is the 75th in the ever-expanding range of OUP introductions (previously Past Masters). Best suited for A-level students, they nevertheless provide helpful introductory surveys or summaries of a range of topics. Kenneth Minogue's Politics came much earlier in the series (8th in fact), but this detailed examination of what is almost certainly the most widely used political concept in the modern world complements it well.
Despite its widespread use, democracy is what might be called "an essentially contested concept" (p.1). Crick makes the point that numerous dictatorial regimes, such as Franco's Spain and Nasser Egypt have claimed to be democracies in some sense. Democracy can be conceptualised as a principle of government, set of institutional arrangements or a type of behaviour (p.5); the three need not go together, and thus even advocates of democracy may have very different conceptions of that ideal. Many band around the term 'democracy' when they really mean good government, constitutionalism, respect for rights or liberty, but Crick is quick to point out the contingencies of these relationships and different understandings of democracy that may operate.
Engaging in an ambitious historical overview, Crick traces the Greek origins of democracy through the Roman civic republicanism, English Civil War, American independence and the French revolution, noting at each stage how the idea develops. In the course of his exegesis, he brings in the ideas of key thinkers, such as Rousseau, Hobbes and a chapter devoted to 'Comme disait M. de Tocqueville'. Discussion isn't wholly confined to the past, however. Unlike some other Very Short Introductions (recycled from earlier material), this is original to 2002.
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Format: Paperback
I've read several of the books in this series by now and this one is one of my favourites. The very short introduction is a tricky medium. How to get the right tone between text book and editorial, how to get the right balance of detail and overview? To me this book does it well. The late author, Bernard Crick, provides a vigorous exploration through both the theoretical and practical history of Democracy. I think the right choice was made in leaving much out and instead providing large sections to key moments/ideas, such as the work of Alexis de Tocqueville.
The author doesn't hide his prejudices in writing the book, rather he makes them very clear, and I think that's the sensible choice in writing such a book. Throughout much of the book Crick takes the tone of a cynical but urbane, rather old-world gentleman. However, he ends the book with a sincere plea for the next generation to engage with the important issues of governance, and you can tell that he believed in the importance of what he says.
This is not a text book and shouldn't be used as one but for anyone who wants to know where the idea of Democracry essentially comes from, how it can mean different things to different people, and why it's important, I would highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Gonnelly on 27 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It might be a short book but you need to read it a few times to understand it. Easier to google the definitions but it is a good book and is very informative.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
really relevant to today's society.informative and beneficial for citizens in democratic states going forward. Easy to read. thoroughly enjoyable. 4 stars
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