Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Sawyer's "Demos Assembled"

Stephen A. Sawyer, professor and chair of history, cofounder of the History, Law, and Society Program, and director of the Center for Critical Democracy Studies at the American University of Paris. has published Demos Assembled: Democracy and the International Origins of the Modern State, 1840–1880 (University of Chicago Press):
Previous studies have covered in great detail how the modern state slowly emerged from the early Renaissance through the seventeenth century, but we know relatively little about the next great act: the birth and transformation of the modern democratic state. And in an era where our democratic institutions are rife with conflict, it’s more important now than ever to understand how our institutions came into being.

Stephen W. Sawyer’s Demos Assembled provides us with a fresh, transatlantic understanding of that political order’s genesis. While the French influence on American political development is well understood, Sawyer sheds new light on the subsequent reciprocal influence that American thinkers and politicians had on the establishment of post-revolutionary regimes in France. He argues that the emergence of the stable Third Republic (1870–1940), which is typically said to have been driven by idiosyncratic internal factors, was in fact a deeply transnational, dynamic phenomenon. Sawyer’s findings reach beyond their historical moment, speaking broadly to conceptions of state formation: how contingent claims to authority, whether grounded in violence or appeals to reason and common cause, take form as stateness.
Endorsements after the jump.
Michael C. Behrent, Appalachian State University
“An engaging, insightful, and lucid book that is likely to make a significant contribution to a number of fields. The unique way Sawyer combines a critical history of French democratic thought with an engagement with the broader literature on the democratic state and a deep knowledge of the practical questions posed by the advent of democracy in nineteenth-century France are what make Demos Assembled both important and original.”
Andrew Jainchill, Queen’s University
“Demos Assembled is a groundbreaking book that makes decisive contributions to multiple historiographies: nineteenth-century France, French republicanism, the history of the state, and the development of modern political thought. Sawyer has produced a first-rate work of scholarship marked by both a mature historical vision and intelligent, engaging readings of individual thinkers. His approach is sophisticated, his argument persuasive, and his conclusions powerful. This is a significant work of history.”
William J. Novak, University of Michigan
“With this distinguished volume, Stephen Sawyer boldly inaugurates a re-excavation of the entire history of democracy and statecraft. A singular achievement!”