Against DemocracyLiterary Experience in the Era of Emancipations

Against DemocracyLiterary Experience in the Era of Emancipations

Simon During

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780823242542

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

Today democracy has become fundamental. It extends increasingly deeply into everyday life; it grounds and limits our political thought and values. We can't think past or beyond it as a political or even as a social system. This is a sense in which we do indeed live at history's end. But this end is not a happy one, because the democratic system we now live in does not satisfy tests that we can legitimately put to it. In this situation, it is important to come to new terms with the fact that literature, at least until about 1945, was hostile to political democracy in particular. It continually attempted not just to resist democracy but to explore other ways of being democratic than those instituted politically. Today, Against Democracy argues, literature helps us not so much to imagine political and social possibilities beyond democracy as to understand how life might be lived simultaneously in and outside of democratic state capitalism. Drawing on political theory, intellectual history, and the techniques of close reading, Against Democracy offers new accounts of the ethos of refusing democracy, of literary criticism's contribution to that ethos, and of the history of conservative resistances to capitalism and democracy. It also proposes innovative interpretations of a range of writers, including Tocqueville, Disraeli, George Eliot, E. M. Forster, and Saul Bellow.