In 1984 the French intellectual, Jean-François Revel, now deceased, published How Democracies Perish, in which he predicted: “Democracy may, after all, turn out to have been a historical accident, a brief parenthesis that is closing before
Less than a decade later, spurred by the fall of the Berlin Wall, he appeared to take the opposite view in Democracy Against Itself, claiming: “Democracy is not only conceivable, it is inevitable. It has been indispensable, but until now it was not inevitable.”
Not surprisingly, Revel, a staunch supporter of America’s battle against the Soviet Union, was ridiculed by critics for his inconsistency.
I didn’t give much thought to Revel after that; at least, not until this year when I began my trek across the world on behalf of the BBC. Then I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I began to see for myself what life is like when there is no such thing as a Bill of Rights, or separation between church and state, or between state and party.