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.
About the Author
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.