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Enlightened Rule

Portraits of Six Exceptional Twentieth Century Premiers

Paul Maylam

The twentieth century has been called an ‘age of catastrophe’, characterized by devastating wars and a general poverty of leadership at government level. This book, written in a more optimistic vein, offers biographical essays on six twentieth century heads of government – three from Latin America, and one each from Africa, Asia and Europe – who were exceptions to the norm. During their terms of office each displayed admirable qualities: moral authority, integrity, an egalitarian spirit, and a firm commitment to democracy, human rights, social justice and international peace. They shunned personality cults, grandiosity and conspicuous consumption. Their governance was shaped by high ideals, in the tradition of democratic socialism or social democracy, but also marked by pragmatism and an awareness that the realization of these ideals was not always practicable. Although some of the six became iconic, venerated figures, none of them are presented here as ‘heroes’ or ‘great leaders’. Each had failings and flaws, and each has been subject to critique. They are rather presented as government heads whose leadership has been worthy of deep respect and admiration. Had other premiers emulated their style of governance, twentieth century history would have taken a very different course.


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Epilogue Legacies and Lessons 299


EPILOGUE Legacies and Lessons In his recent study of utopian thinking in the twentieth century, Jay Winter has ‘written against the grain’ of what he calls ‘catastrophic history’ – a history that depicts the twentieth century as one of total war and tends to highlight ‘the monstrous and shocking’.1 This book starts out in this vein in its introductory chapter. But the rest of the book follows Winter’s lead in trying to ‘of fer glimpses’ into what he calls ‘the visionary tempera- ment’. Among those with such a temperament Winter lists Jean Jaurès, the early twentieth-century French socialist leader who espoused socialism because it sought ‘to develop all the faculties of man, his power to think, to live, and to will’, and because it meant ‘a turning away from habits of mind based on deference, inequality, and injustice’. For Jaurès this quest necessarily required involvement in the political process.2 While Winter’s utopian visionaries were not power-holders, the six figures portrayed in this collection all faced the enormous challenge of sus- taining a ‘visionary temperament’ while also wielding authority from the pinnacle of power in their capacity as heads of government. Each of the six shared Jaurès’ vision, but not one was able to realize this vision to the full. A determined striving is evident among each of them, but to varying degrees political realities and external circumstances constrained their ability to bring their socialist ideals to fruition. Each practised a socialist morality, but was able to implement socialist...

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