Two Cheers for Democracy

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Two Cheers for Democracy is the second collection of essays by E. M. Forster, published in 1951, and incorporating material from 1936 onwards.

Reflecting Forster's increasing politicisation in the 1930s,[1] particularly in the first section entitled 'The Second Darkness', the collection contains versions of his anti-Nazi broadcasts of 1940, as well as his defence of individualism as "a liberal who has found liberalism crumbling beneath him"[2] in the face of the rise of totalitarianism.


The collection was arranged thematically, not chronologically,[3] with the political first section followed by a second, more cultural part, 'What I Believe', containing Forster's reflection on art in general, as well as on particular artists ranging from John Skelton to Syed Ross Masood.[4]

Part One saw Forster struggling to articulate his quiet liberalism,[5] and his concern for the individual,[6] in the face not only of continental totalitarianism, but also of both right-wing xenophobia and left-wing extremism at home.[7] The book's title comes from the end of the sixth paragraph of "What I Believe" ( Seen widely as out-of-step and ineffective at the time, his writings have perhaps worn better than many of their more strident counterparts--Stanley Cavell for example praising him a half-century later for the honesty of his concrete efforts to weigh up the competing ethical claims of public and private spheres, country and friends.[8]

In Part Two, Forster both enunciated and exemplified his belief in the arts and culture as an (inner) ordering principle in life[9] - providing it with a celebratory sense of meaning.[10] As he himself put it,[11]

”I have found by experience that the arts act as an antidote against our present troubles, and also as a support to our common humanity.”

See also[edit]


  1. ^ D.S. Kastan ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature (2006) p. 211
  2. ^ E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1965) p. 83
  3. ^ J. M. Heath ed., The Creator as Critic and Other Writings by E. M. Forster (2006) Appendix
  4. ^ E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1965) p. 7-8
  5. ^ D. and M. Ravitch, The English Reader (2006) p. 424
  6. ^ I. Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (1995) p. 342
  7. ^ Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (1996) p. 618
  8. ^ Stanley Cavell, Cavell on Film (2003) p. 153
  9. ^ R. Martin, The Light that Failed (1974) p. 197
  10. ^ D. and M. Ravitch, The English Reader (2006) p. 424
  11. ^ E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1965) p. 11

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