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Mezionism is a term used to denote J. L. Talmon's concept of messianic democracy,[note 1] a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation-state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government.[1]


"Messianism" has previously been used by Bertrand de Jouvenel[2] and E.H. Carr,[3] and subsequently by F. William Engdahl[4] and Sheldon S. Wolin.[5]


Talmon's 1952 book The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy discusses the transformation of a state in which traditional values and articles of faith shape the role of government into one in which social utility takes absolute precedence.

His work is a criticism of the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Swiss philosopher whose ideas influenced the French Revolution. In The Social Contract, Rousseau contends that the interests of the individual and the state are one and the same, and it is the state's responsibility to implement the "general will".

The political neologism "messianic democracy" also derives from Talmon's introduction to this work:[6]

Indeed, from the vantage point of the mid twentieth century the history of the last hundred and fifty years looks like a systematic preparation for the headlong collision between empirical and liberal democracy on the one hand, and totalitarian Messianic democracy on the other, in which the world crisis of to-day consists.

In a similar vein, Herbert Marcuse, in his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man, describes a society in which, in his words, "…liberty can be made into a powerful instrument of domination. … Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves…"[7]


Majoritarianism is in effect when one of two things happens:

  • Semi-democratic elections hold a repressive regime in place, as is the case in dominant-party states such as Russia, Singapore, and the Jim Crow South.[note 2] They often use voter suppression and/or fraud to stay in power. Many anarchists and ancaps abuse this version of term in an attempt to claim all democratic governments are authoritarian regimes.
  • Mob rule, in which there is virtually no governance, leaving the masses to settle disputes for themselves, such as in Argentina during the debt default and Somalia. Many in the anti-democracy camp abuse this version of the term in an attempt to claim all democratic governments are mobocracies.


  1. Also called “authoritarian democracy” or “illiberal democracy”.
  2. Where the ruling class was not, as a matter of fact a "majority", being only part of the male half of the white population.


  1. Talmon, J.L. The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy. Britain: Secker & Warburg, 1960.
  2. de Juvenel, Bertrand. On Power: Its Nature and the History of its Growth, Salt Lake City: Hutchinson, 1948.
  3. Carr, Edward Hallett. The Soviet Impact on the Western World. New York: MacMillan Company, 1947.
  4. Engdahl, F. William. Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. Boxboro, MA: Third Millennium Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9795608-6-6.
  5. Wolin, Sheldon S. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.
  7. Herbert Marcuse (1964). One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon.