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Western Europe’s Democratic Age


Martin Conway

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte


A major new history of how democracy became the dominant political force in Europe in the second half of the twentieth century

What happened in the years following World War II to create a democratic revolution in the western half of Europe? In Western Europe's Democratic Age, Martin Conway provides an innovative new account of how a stable, durable, and remarkably uniform model of parliamentary democracy emerged in Western Europe—and how this democratic ascendancy held fast until the latter decades of the twentieth century.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, Conway describes how Western Europe's postwar democratic order was built by elite, intellectual, and popular forces. Much more than the consequence of the defeat of fascism and the rejection of Communism, this democratic order rested on universal male and female suffrage, but also on new forms of state authority and new political forces—primarily Christian and social democratic—that espoused democratic values. Above all, it gained the support of the people, for whom democracy provided a new model of citizenship that reflected the aspirations of a more prosperous society.

This democratic order did not, however, endure. Its hierarchies of class, gender, and race, which initially gave it its strength, as well as the strains of decolonization and social change, led to an explosion of demands for greater democratic freedoms in the 1960s, and to the much more contested democratic politics of Europe in the late twentieth century.

Western Europe's Democratic Age is a compelling history that sheds new light not only on the past of European democracy but also on the unresolved question of its future.



Political party, Regime, Social conflict, Europe, Liberalism, Social class, Bourgeoisie, Decision-making, Centre-left politics, Criticism of democracy, Communism, Political campaign, Institution, Voting, Federal republic, Rhetoric, Sovereignty, Political system, Christian democracy, Nation state, Criticism, European Democracy (Cyprus), Anti-communism, Elite, Mass politics, Trade union, Popular sovereignty, Protest, Manifesto, Political movement, Employment, Western Europe, Corporatism, Election, Legislation, Totalitarianism, Weimar Republic, Political science, Authoritarianism, Political class, Czechoslovakia, Central Europe, Capitalism, Direct democracy, Representative democracy, State socialism, Activism, People's democracy (Marxism–Leninism), Welfare state, Social justice, Government, Parliamentary system, Bureaucrat, Procedural democracy, Right-wing politics, Subversion, Radical right (United States), Soviet Union, Marxism, Modernity, Centre-right politics, Dictatorship, Radicalism (historical), Democracy, Nazism, Social democracy, Vichy France, Calculation, Politics, Welfare, Political culture, Ideology, Political alliance, Democratization, Citizenship, Intelligentsia, Civil society, Radical Change, Ruler, Algeria, Political philosophy, Raymond Aron, Governance, Colonialism, Economic democracy, Charles de Gaulle, Post-war, Coalition government, Politician, Suffrage, Middle class, Proportional representation, Hegemony, West Germany, Political structure, Hostility, Civil liberties, Liberal democracy, Referendum, Types of democracy