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Studies in Social and Cultural History

Leveraging a neo-marxist approach focused on the emergence of social classes and inter-class coalitions, Moore argues that there are three historical routes from agrarianism to the modern industrial world. In the capitalist democratic route, exemplified by England, France, and the United States, the peasantry was politically impotent or had been eradicated alltogether, a strong bourgeoisie was present, and the aristocracy allied itself with the bourgeoisie or failed to oppose its democratizing efforts. In the capitalist reactionary route, exemplified by Germany and Japan, the peasantry posed a threat to the interests of both the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, which consequently formed a conservative alliance against the peasantry; this alliance bolstered an autonomous, occasionally authoritarian state capable of being coopted by a fascist leader in a revolution from above. Finally, in the communist route, exemplified by China and Russia, the bourgeoisie failed to emerge and the the peasantry was strong and independent enough from the aristocracy to spur a radical revolution from below against the centralized agrarian bureaucracy. India is an awkward outlier, having subscribed to none of the foregoing paths (ibid: 413). 3 The Three Trajectories to the Modern World Although Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy purports to explain “the varied political roles played by the landed upper classes and the peasantry in the transformation from agrarian society. . . to modern industrial ones,” it is the presence of a strong bourgeoisie that ultimately is the crucial necessary condition for Moore in determining the developmental trajectory of particular societies (Moore 1966: xi). As he cogently states, “we may simply register strong agreement with the Marxist thesis that a vigorous and independent class of town dwellers has been an indespensable element in the growth of parliamentary democracy. No bourgeois, no democracy” (ibid: 418). To forward this argument, Moore leverages comparative historical analysis and case studies of France, England, the United States, Japan, China, and India, with some occasional references to Germany and Russia as well (ibid: xi-xii). He justifies the selection of these countries on the basis that they have been “political leaders at different points in time during the first half of the twentieth century” (ibid: xiii).