Modern Isonomy: Democratic Participation and Human Rights Protection as a System of Equal Rights (Paperback)

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Modern Isonomy: Democratic Participation and Human Rights Protection as a System of Equal Rights (Paperback)


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Until the eighteenth century, Western societies were hierarchical ones. Since then, they have transformed themselves into societies dominated by two features: participatory democracy and the protection of human rights. In Modern Isonomy, distinguished political theorist Gerald Stourzh unites these ideas as “isonomy.”
The ideal, Stourzh argues, is a state, and indeed a world, in which individual rights, including the right to participate in politics equally, are clearly defined and possessed by all. Stourzh begins with ancient Greek thought contrasting isonomy—which is associated with the rule of the many—with “gradated societies,” oligarchies, and monarchies. He then discusses the American experiment with the development of representative democracy as well as the French Revolution, which proclaimed that all people are born and remain free and with equal rights. But progress on the creation and protection of rights for all has been uneven. Stourzh discusses specifically the equalization of slaves, peasants, women, Jews, and indigenous people. He demonstrates how deeply intertwined the protection of equal rights is with the development of democracy and gives particular attention to the development of constitutional adjudication, notably the constitutional complaint of individuals. He also discusses the international protection human rights. Timely and thought-provoking, Modern Isonomy is an erudite exploration of political and human rights.

Gerald Stourzh is professor emeritus at the University of Vienna. He is the author of several books in English and German, including Benjamin Franklin and American Foreign Policy, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Cynthia Peck-Kubaczek is an editor, writer, and translator for the Austrian Academy of Sciences and The Vienna Review.
Product Details ISBN: 9780226811932
ISBN-10: 022681193X
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2021
Pages: 192
“Stourzh revives the half-forgotten word ‘isonomy’ as rival to ‘democracy’ from its start in Herodotus, its development through regimes with ‘gradations’ of hierarchy, and its modern flowering in ‘equalizations’ and ‘democracy with adjectives.’ In brief compass he supplies a wonderful variety of thoughtful descriptions from the many sources of his remarkable learning.”
— Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University

“The eminent historian Gerald Stourzh has drawn on a lifetime of engagement in the development of law, constitutions, and citizens’ rights in Austria, the United States, and internationally to offer this learned essay on the concept of equality before the law, what the ancient Greeks were first to call isonomy. Writing with wisdom, directness, and strong conviction, Stourzh deftly traces the evolution of isonomy over the centuries and assesses its realization and vulnerabilities in the contemporary world.”
— Gary B. Cohen, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities