Books: Pessimist's World

SOCIAL ORIGINS OF DICTATORSHIP AND DEMOCRACY by Barrington Moore Jr. 559 pages. Beacon Press. $10.

Most people would agree that mankind, despite painful lapses, has brought civilization a long way from the primordial rule of tooth and claw. Barrington Moore Jr. is not at all that sanguine. His view of civilization, in fact, is downright gloomy. It is Moore's thesis in this difficult and challenging book that modern man has yet to repeal his jungle past.

Moore, 53, a senior research fellow at Harvard's Russian Research Center and onetime analyst for the OSS, reached his conclusion after patient years of studying the structures—democracy,...

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