The 20th century has seen, perhaps for the first time in human history, the emergence of some of the world’s common people into the arenas of economic and political decision-making. That is remarkable. The very designation ‘common people’ is enough to tell us that these are people without the political clout of economic ownership or high status. Yet they can be shown to have exercised considerable, if not complete, influence over the policies of both state and entrepreneur via electoral and party access to a parliament and by independent trade union organisation. Such achievements are often construed as evidence of enlightened attitudes, of civilised society, of the realisation of the superior political ideals of liberal democracy—the Whig view of human progress. We, however, take a less congratulatory view. While democratic ideals and enlightened attitudes have mattered historically, there is still to be explained the slowness and sometimes too the bloodiness of the processes whereby common people have secured these measures of legitimate authority over their own conditions of existence. Democratisation, which is what we take these processes to be, demands further explanation than a reference to ideals and attitudes if only to give us some basis for prognostication, the latter being particularly urgent given the intensifying political predicaments of the western world and what many writers herald as the collapse of democracy in the west (Miliband, 1982; Moss, 1975; Hain, 1986).
KeywordsEurope Stratification Posit Tate Arena
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