“We had thought, or our forefathers had, that modern liberal democracy would be spared the kind of erosion and decay that both Plato and Aristotle declared endemic in all forms of state. Now we are not so sure.” So wrote Robert Nisbet in the first edition of Twilight of Authority, published by Oxford University Press in 1975. “The centralization and, increasingly, individualization of power is matched in the social and cultural spheres by a combined hedonism and egalitarianism, each in its own way a reflection of the destructive impact of power on the hierarchy that is native to the social bond,” he writes.
Robert Nisbet (1913–1996) taught at Columbia, the University of California at Berkeley, Smith College, and the University of Bologna.
Robert G. Perrin is Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.