Agents of the People
Pasi Ihalainen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
This book on the pre-history of democratization shows how and why more modern attitudes to democracy started to emerge in the late eighteenth century. Focusing on the language of parliamentarians, the author reconstructs and compares debates on the political role and representation of the people in Britain and Sweden. His analysis demonstrates not only the persistence of the classical, pejorative, conception of democracy but also the gradual re-evaluation of the notion prior to the French Revolution. The author analyses the clash between British and French conceptions of democracy as well as the first definitions of the sovereignty of Parliament as the sovereignty of the people. Furthermore, by placing parliamentary discourse in the context of public debates, he reveals the previously ignored role that parliaments played in redefining the most crucial concepts in Western political theory.