This is a major work of history and political theory that traces radical democratic thought in America across the twentieth century, seeking to recover ideas that could reenergize democratic activism today. The question of how citizens should behave as they struggle to create a more democratic society has haunted the United States throughout its history. Should citizens restrict themselves to patient persuasion or take to the streets and seek to impose change? Marc Stears argues that anyone who continues to wrestle with these questions could learn from the radical democratic tradition that was forged in the twentieth century by political activists, including progressives, trade unionists, civil rights campaigners, and members of the student New Left.
These activists and their movements insisted that American campaigners for democratic change should be free to strike out in whatever ways they thought necessary, so long as their actions enhanced the political virtues of citizens and contributed to the eventual triumph of the democratic cause. Reevaluating the moral and strategic arguments, and the triumphs and excesses, of this radical democratic tradition, Stears contends that it still offers a compelling account of citizen behavior--one that is fairer, more inclusive, and more truly democratic than those advanced by political theorists today.
"This is an excellent, evocative book examining often-ignored possibilities for American democracy. It adds richness and depth to analysis of American political thought and to continuing debate about the nature, content, and purpose of democracy."--Choice
"[T]he book provides a fine primer on democratic theory in twentieth century America. . . . [It] also offers a bold and terse read, important not just for historians but also for political activists and thinkers."--Kevin Mattson, Journal of American History
"The bulk of Demanding Democracy is an interpretation of 60 years of American radical democratic thought and activism through the lens of these concerns. And it proves a most fruitful way of thinking about this history, particularly because Stears is acutely alert to the 'fiendishly difficult' task that his subjects set themselves."--Robert Westbrook, Perspectives on Politics
"Graduate students and scholars interested in the connections between democratic thought, activism and new social movements in the U.S. will find this book informative, if professionally unsettling."--Jeffrey D. Hilmer, Political Studies Review
Table of Contents:
PART ONE 1900-1945
Chapter One: Making the Nation a Neighborhood 21
Chapter Two: After the Breach 56
Chapter Three: Radicalism Americanized 85
PART TWO: 1945-1972
Chapter Four: Doubt and the American Creed 119
Chapter Five: The Explosive Enclave 145
Chapter Six: "We Are Beginning to Move Again" 174
Conclusion: Renewing the American Radical Tradition 206