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Everywhere there was a strong tendency to modify the concepts of political liberalism into a justification of democracy. By and large, this was not the result of the creation of a completely new political theory. The advocates of democracy tended to justify their doctrine with natural-rights theories from the Enlightenment, with a utilitarianism reminiscent of John Stuart Mill, with deductions drawn from the romantic glorification of the individual, or with appeals to the record of the United States. In general, they took over the concepts of the middle-class liberalism of the nineteenth century. However, the very logic of the liberal position in an increasingly industrialized world forced democrats to advocate the removal of many of those limitations on popular participation in government which liberals earlier had thought necessary. With victory apparently in sight in the years 1871-1914, democracy can be studied through its acts, in the difficult task of putting into practice under widely divergent conditions those general concepts which had been forged in an earlier age. In the process strongly egalitarian institutions were developed which became identified with democracy in the minds of most Westerners. It is in the observations of this process that we can test the definition of democracy as "government responsible to the will of the people." [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XVII: The Transformation of Liberalism and Nationalism, 1871-1914. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.