Buchcover Political Extremes

Political Extremes

A conceptual history from antiquity to the present

Uwe Backes

Routledge London, New York, 2011

ISBN 978-0-415-50050-0, 312 pages, price: 28,75 €

The Western tradition of the constitutional state, with its ancient roots, defines political extremes as the epitome of that which must be absolutely rejected. It highlights tyranny, despotism, despotic rule, non-autonomy, ruthless enforcing of interests as ‘extreme’, contrasting this with a virtuous mean which guarantees moderation. In this volume, the culmination of twenty years of extensive research, Uwe Backes provides a conceptual history of the notions ‘extreme’ and ‘extremism’ from antiquity to the present day. The terminological history of political extremes has been related for more than two millennia with the term mesotes used in Aristotelian ethics and the theory of mixed constitution. Both doctrines influenced the republicanism of the North Italian city-states and later the United States of America as well as British parliamentarism. The positions of moderation and extremes were not joined until the course of the French Revolution with the distinction of right-and left-wing, and this is how it still exists today in the intellectual-political geography. This unique source-based study reconstructs these developments from ancient times to the present. Tracing the history of the concept of political extremism from Ancient Greece to the present day, this is an invaluable resource for scholars of democracy, extremism and political sociology.

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