Political Extremes: A conceptual history from antiquity to the present, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Political Extremes

A conceptual history from antiquity to the present, 1st Edition

By Uwe Backes


312 pages | 12 B/W Illus.

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The Western tradition of the constitutional state, with its ancient roots, defines political extremes as the epitome of that what must be absolutely rejected. It highlights tyranny, despotism, despotic rule, non-autonomy, ruthless enforcing of interests as ‘extreme’, contrasting this to 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 had been related for more then two millennia with the term mesotês used in the 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.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Extremes, Mean, Moderation and Constitutional Mixture in Antiquity and the Middle Ages 3. Extremes and the tradition of the Mixed Constitution from Early Humanism to the Age of Democratic Revolutions 4. Extreme Ideologies in the Political Laboratory of the Nineteenth Century 5.Extremism in the beginning of the "age of extremes" 6. Extreme terms in the political language of German ideocracies 7. Extremism as an element of the official/semi-official language of the Federal Republic of Germany 8. Lines of development of the extremism concept in the Twentieth Century 9. Political Extremism: Final Results, classification of terms and outlook 10. Appendix

About the Author

Uwe Backes is a deputy director of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism and teaches political science at the Technical University of Dresden, Saxony.

About the Series

Extremism and Democracy

This series covers academic studies within the broad fields of ‘extremism’ and ‘democracy’, with volumes focusing on adjacent concepts such as populism, radicalism, and ideological/religious fundamentalism. These topics have been considered largely in isolation by scholars interested in the study of political parties, elections, social movements, activism, and radicalisation in democratic settings. A key focus of the series, therefore, is the (inter-)relation between extremism, radicalism, populism, fundamentalism, and democracy. Since its establishment in 1999, the series has encompassed both influential contributions to the discipline and informative accounts for public debate. Works will seek to problematise the role of extremism, broadly defined, within an ever-globalising world, and/or the way social and political actors can respond to these challenges without undermining democratic credentials.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Communism & Socialism
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General