Western Europe's Democratic Age: 1945-1968. Princeton, NJ & Oxford, UK.

AuthorUneke, Okori

Martin Conway. Western Europe's Democratic Age: 1945-1968. Princeton, NJ & Oxford, UK: Princeton University Press. 2020. v-357 pages. Paperback, $35.00.

Martin Conway's recent book, Western Europe's Democratic Age, is a new history of how democracy became the dominant political force in Europe in the second half of the twentieth century. Conway, a professor of Contemporary European History at Oxford, provides a pioneering account of how a firm, durable, and exceptionally consistent style of parliamentary democracy emerged in Western Europe, and remained dependable for almost twenty-five years. Conway chronicles how Western Europe's postwar democratic order was built by elite, intellectual, and popular forces. This democratic order was much more than the consequences of the defeat of fascism and the rejection of Communism, but anchored on democratic values--universal adult suffrage, new forms of the power of the state to enforce compliance and new Christian and Social Democratic political forces that embraced democratic values. What is more, democratic principles galvanized the support of the general population for whom the new order offered a new model of citizenship that reflected their hopes and longings in a more prosperous society. The book shows how democracy became a firmly-lodged institution in Western Europe's sociopolitical cultures in the decades following the Second World War. But as Conway observed, this new democratic order did not persist. The strains of decolonization and social change, as well as race, gender, and class hierarchies led to an eruption of demands for greater freedoms in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In his analyses, Conway draws insights and illustrations from the bigger European states like France, Germany, and Italy, but also from the smaller states like the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg). The book has an introduction, five chapters and a conclusion.

In the Introduction captioned "A Democratic Age," the book began with an exploration of French political philosopher, Raymond Aron's contention that democracy had been stabilized in Western Europe post-1945. Aron argued that, compared to the ruinous fights over ideology, class, and ethnicity that had typified the first half of the twentieth century in Europe, a new form of industrial society had emerged after the war. This new order was marked by representative democratic institutions incorporating guarantees of personal freedoms...

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