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Description - Kings or People by Reinhard Bendix

From the Preface: The world in which we live has its roots far back in history, and as a world power America must come to terms with countries which were formed in their present mold long before the American, revolution. All those to whom an exploration of this historical background will appeal probably share with me an immediate empathy with the anguish of nation-building around the world. This book is a study of what that anguish meant in times past when countries were first developing their political institutions and when they turned more recently from royal authority to a popular mandate. The problems of developing such institutions are formidable, then as well as now. A scholarly concern with these problems must touch on many subjects in social stratification, religion, political sociology, and the history of ideas, and the book treats these and related themes in their specific historical contexts. This interpretive work is addressed not only to students of political development but also to the general reader who is interested in a large view of history. That reader is provided with sufficient detail and annotation so that the many diverse contexts with which this study deals can be understood. A thematic outline of the book is presented on the first pages of the introduction, which deals as well with the reasons for my approach to historical sociology.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780520040908
ISBN-10: 0520040902
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 159mm x 41mm)
Pages: 704
Imprint: University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
Publish Date: 8-Apr-1980
Country of Publication: United States

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Book Reviews - Kings or People by Reinhard Bendix

US Kirkus Review » Political power cannot be based on coercion alone - it must be supported by reasons; i.e., it must be legitimated. Bendix, a Berkeley political scientist in the Weberian mold, identifies two broad contexts of legitimacy - divine sanction and popular mandate - and synthesizes an enormous range of scholarly material on these two forms of rule. Separate chapters on England, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan survey the contours of each form within a specific national context - from the rise of the Yamato dynasty in 4th-century Japan to the collapse of the Romanovs, from the erosion of monarchic rule in England to the development of the Soviet state. Bendix emphasizes that monarchic rule is weak on at least two grounds: appeal to divine legitimacy can be turned against a ruler by either ecclesiastic or popular access to sacred rites and knowledge; and fragmentation (the necessary delegation of authority) sets up possible challenges to central authority and reinforces pre-existing factional conflicts. Because they rest on a similar claim to legitimacy, Bendix includes both monarchy and aristocracy within this first form of rule - thereby illustrating a problem inherent in such schematic studies, since the particular relationship obtaining between aristocracies and monarchies plays a crucial role in the historical development of different nations. But the problem, if unresolved, is not concealed in Bendix's formulation. On a scale comparable to works by Weber, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Perry Anderson, this huge book is an accessible comparative history of the nations surveyed, and a major contribution to the study of political systems and cultures. (Kirkus Reviews)


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