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Certain Proposals to Eliminate

Moore lists five conditions for the development of Western-style democracy (through a “bourgeois revolution“):[3]

  1. the “development of a balance to avoid too strong a crown or too independent a landed aristocracy”
  2. a shift toward “an appropriate form of commercial agriculture”
  3. a “weakening of the landed aristocracy”
  4. the “prevention of an aristocratic-bourgeois coalition against the peasants and workers” [which would lead to fascism]
  5. a “revolutionary break with the past”.

Moore’s concern was the transformation of pre-industrial agrarian social relations into “modern” ones. He highlighted what he called “three routes to the modern world” – the liberal democratic, the fascist, and the communist – each deriving from the timing of industrialization and the social structure at the time of transition.

In the simplest sense, Social Origins can be summarized with his famous statement “No bourgeois, no democracy”[4] though taking that idea at face value undercuts and misinterprets the nuances of his argument.

  • In England, the effect of the “bourgeois impulse” was to change the attitudes of a portion of the landed elite towards commercial farming, leading to the destruction of the peasantry through the enclosure system and the English Civil War which led to an aristocratic, but moderate democracy.
  • In France, the French Revolution did directly include the bourgeoisie, but it was the overwhelming influence of the peasantry that determined “just how far the revolution could go.” The peasantry remained thereafter a reservoir of reactionary attitudes.
  • In the United States, the industrial north’s victory over the Southern planter elite in the Civil War cemented the U.S. path to modernity through liberal democracy, but only after southern planters “acquired a tincture” of urban business – essentially changing their attitudes towards capitalist accumulation. The result, however, was that once this transformation took place, the Northern capitalists ended Reconstruction and allowed the South to implement Jim Crow.