Democracy after World War I

7ab0d62fb4The volume Normalität und Fragilität: Demokratie nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg, edited by Adam Tooze and Tim B. Müler, looks at the changes of Western democracy after 1918. During the interwar years, the authors argue, democracy “became normal”, but at the same time was characterized by a fundamental fragility: “Modern democracy is a recent invention. It was the new political phenomenon, dynamic and characteristic of the era that followed the end of World War I. In these decades, democracy became normal, a comprehensive form of governance and daily life. The notion that it might be replaced with some other model seemed unthinkable. This development occurred simultaneously in a various societies worldwide, especially in Europe. Historians from various European countries and the US consider issues of key importance in comparative research on democracy including its acceptance in society, its diverse manifestations in politics and everyday life, and the emergence of the expectation that democracy will persist. How democracy came to be normal and remained so even in crises that threatened its existence but also how it could be dismantled in some cases are some of the questions they address here. This comparative survey reveals transnational intersections and simultaneous developments but also highlights differences shaped by national contexts.  As democracy became normal, the fragility of this political order also became apparent. The foundations of democracy had to be secured again and again. Democracy is always shaped by instability as well as stability, by fragility and creativity. Today, as the fragility of democracy increasingly comes into focus in political discussions and there is talk of »dangerous times« for democracy, these texts scrutinize the period in which democracy became normal in many societies but when nonetheless this normality was unthinkable without fragility. They offer striking insights for the present.”

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