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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Progress

If you want to believe, a la the Francis Fukuyama of 1992, that we are reaching "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government," it helps not to read too much history. Otherwise you might run across a quote like:
In all Christian kingdoms you know that parliaments were in use anciently until the monarchs begin to know their own strength: and seeing the turbulent spirit of their parliaments at length they, by little and little, began to stand upon their perogatives, and at last overthrew the parliaments throughout Christendom except here only with us. -- Dudley Carleton, addressing Commons for Charles I (quoted in Charles I, Charles Carlton, 1983, London and New York: Routledge)
In other words, in 1626 it was representative government that appeared antiquated and on the way out, and absolute monarchy that was the modern thing to adopt. Charles I, Charles II, and James II all saw themselves as attempting to modernize Britain by reducing the power of old-fashioned and "turbulent" institutions such as parliament.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post.

    Nothing further to add.

    Okay, one idea comes to mind. When the Shah of Iran became more of an absolute monarch after the coup again Mossadegh, many Iranians saw him as a step forward into modernisation, as opposed to the retrograde direction Mossadegh seemed to take them. An absolute monarch like him would supposedly be less of an ideologue and more of a pragmatist willing both to take financial help of Americans for Iran's enrichment and to negotiate for peace with Soviet Russians.

    This much, I gleaned from archive footage that BBC showed of the pre-Revolution Iran.

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