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Democracy and Dictatorship: The Nature and Limits of State Power



Democracy and Dictatorship: The Nature and Limits of State Power

Norberto Bobbio

ISBN: 978-0-745-61912-5 April 1997 Polity 216 Pages


In this important volume Norberto Bobbio examines some of the central themes of political theory and presents a systematic exposition of his views. With great astuteness and profound scholarship, Bobbio unfolds the elements for a general theory of politics.

Bobbio's wide-ranging argument is focused on four themes: the distinction between the public and the private; the concept of civil society; differing conceptions of the state and differing ways of understanding the legitimacy of state power; and the relation between democracy and dictatorship. Bobbio's discussion draws on a wealth of theoretical and historical material, from Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes and Locke to Marx, Weber, Habermas and Foucault. By analysing the development of different languages of politics in relation to changing social and historical contexts, Bobbio deepens our understanding of the concepts we use to describe and evaluate modern political systems.

Introduction: Democracy and the Decline of the Left by John Keane.


Part I: The great dichotomy: public/private:.

Corresponding dichotomies.

The evaluative use of the great dichotomy.

The second meeting of the dichotomy.

Part II: Civil Society:.

The various meanings.

The Marxian interpretation.

The Hegelian system.

The natural law tradition.

Civil society as civilised society.

The current debate.

Part III: State, Power and Government:.

Towards the study of the state.

The name and the thing.

The state and power.

The foundation of power.

State and law.

The forms of government.

Forms of state.

The end of the state.

Part IV: Democracy and Dictatorship:.

Democracy in the theory of governmental forms.

The descriptive use.

The evaluative use.

The historical use.

Modern democracy.

Representative democracy and direct democracy.

Political democracy and social democracy.

Formal democracy and substantive democracy.

Ancient dictatorship.

Modern dictatorship.

Revolutionary dictatorship.



"In the current landscape there is one figure of outstanding moral and political significance, the Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio." New Left Review

"This book constitutes a marvellous "Introduction" to the study of politics. A book which does not leave the reader as it found him - it teaches him how to think." La Stampa

"[Bobbio shows] clarity and skill in making distinctions ... and shining precision in defining terms and ideas." Corsera

1. Norberto Bobbio is one of the foremost political theorists in Europe and this volume presents a systematic exposition of his views 2. The book addresses a series of concepts and theories which are central to political and social theory, analyses them brilliantly and relates them to historical developments 3. Bobbio's work is receiving increasing attention in the English-speaking world, with major reviews etc., and this book will benefit from, and consolidate, his growing reputation