“No bourgeois mass party, no democracy”: The missing link in Barrington Moore's American civil war

Political Power and Social Theory

ISBN: 978-0-76231-418-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-545-1

ISSN: 0198-8719

Publication date: 7 September 2008


Moore (1966) once argued that the American Civil War was a fundamentally “bourgeois” revolution. As such, Moore's account falls in line with much of the larger literature on democratization, which emphasizes the class dimensions of democratic expansions and transitions, but is largely silent on how party politics are implicated in those processes. Such approaches miss a great deal of the party, inter-elite and discursive dynamics that are crucial to understanding the origins and consequences of democratic change. This chapter seeks to discern the impact of mass party formation and political discourse on modern routes to democracy through an examination of mid-19th-century Chicago politics. It holds to Moore's conclusion that the American Civil War was indeed a bourgeois revolution, while demonstrating that the trajectory of party politics before, during and after the war challenges Moore's interpretation of how class forces were mobilized in the American case. Partisan shifts, for example, worked at turns to weaken and strengthen the rhetorical and organizational basis of working-class mobilization, suggesting that democratization and the class coalitions that give rise to it are shaped and re-shaped by the context of partisan struggle.


de Leon, C. (2008), "“No bourgeois mass party, no democracy”: The missing link in Barrington Moore's American civil war", Davis, D.E. and Proenza-Coles, C. (Ed.) Political Power and Social Theory (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 39-82. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0198-8719(08)19002-0

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