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Theodor Heuss, "Democracy and Parliamentarism: Their History, Their Enemies, and Their Future" (1928)

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In recent years, the recognition of this connection has, if only hesitantly, also become established among those who reject democracy who want to represent the nation in a particularly emphatic sense. In their embarrassment they have found a way out: democracy might well conform to the closed regions of the European West, they claim, but not to the central and eastern areas. As if an intellectual idea and a moral claim, once they have taken root in the peoples, have to find out beforehand if the two conform to each other. The overthrow of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires are the effects of this intellectual–political process. But the Paris peace accords of 1919, rather than providing a respite, have merely perpetuated the tensions by denying or destroying the preconditions of democracy, while they invoke democratic ideology propagandistically.

It is utterly trivial to dream of the Pan–European idea or to hold in reserve some other fashionable plan for the salvation of the world, through world parliaments and similar institutions, as long as this situation is overlooked. Democracy is neither pacifistic nor militaristic in its essence; it can be both, with its intellectual attitude determined by the degree of tension or consensus pertaining in popular life and state structure. Democracy has not resolved the problem of the coexistence of nations, nor rendered it harmless, nor resolved its hostility; democracy, rather, has awakened in it the evil spirit of self-assurance. That is precisely what makes politics so intricate, dangerous, and portentous on a densely populated continent marked by endless reciprocity. But this situation may only be mentioned; to pursue it further exceeds the scope of this work.

Source of English translation: Theodor Heuss, “Democracy and Parliamentarism: Their History, Their Enemies, and Their Future” (1928), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 53-56. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: Theodor Heuss, “Demokratie und Parlamentarismus: ihre Geschichte, ihre Gegner und ihre Zukunft,” in Zehn Jahre deutsche Republik. Ein Handbuch für republikanische Politik, ed. Anton Erkelenz. Berlin: Sieben-Stäbe Verlag, 1928, pp. 98-117.

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