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Epilogue: Democratic Elitism And Western Political Thought

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Chapter Summary

Most influential schools of Western political thought since World War II have had a utopian flavor. In 1900, governments in Western Europe and the countries settled by English-speaking people derived much of their legitimacy from relatively contested and participatory elections of representative parliaments and assemblies. This chapter shows how democratic elitism can be put on a firmer intellectual and comparative historical footing than Western political thought has allowed. As a liberal, Joseph Schumpeter correctly saw that democracy is a method, or an instrumental value, that can serve the ultimate liberal goal of a free people. Critics of democratic elitism must come to terms with the more or less ineluctable aspects of elites and politics that the chapter has explored. If and when they do, their conception of democracy will not differ significantly from that which Schumpeter offered.

Keywords: democratic elitism; Joseph Schumpeter; Western Europe; Western political thought



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