What is the significance of the Dreyfus Affair in Twilight of Democracy?

The significance of the Dreyfus Affair in Twilight of Democracy is that it shows how anti-democratic elites are willing to undermine and destroy liberal democracy and its institutions. What right-wing intellectuals in France did during the late nineteenth century is still being done by political elites today.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Dreyfus Affair involved the wrongful conviction of a French officer on trumped-up charges of espionage. Dreyfus was Jewish, and the injustice meted out to him was based on nothing more than anti-Semitic prejudice. In the meantime, the senior officer who had been spying for the Germans continued committing treason...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The Dreyfus Affair involved the wrongful conviction of a French officer on trumped-up charges of espionage. Dreyfus was Jewish, and the injustice meted out to him was based on nothing more than anti-Semitic prejudice. In the meantime, the senior officer who had been spying for the Germans continued committing treason against the French state.

The case divided France from top to bottom, with many prominent public figures, such as the writer Émile Zola, loudly speaking out on Dreyfus's behalf. By the same token, right-wing figures such as the notorious anti-Semite Charles Maurras defended the army and refused to believe that Dreyfus was innocent, despite the shaky case that had secured his conviction.

In Twilight of Democracy, Anne Applebaum draws extensively upon the Dreyfus case to illustrate one of the book's key points: that anti-democratic elites are ready, willing, and able to undermine and destroy liberal democracy and its institutions. What the likes of Maurras did in France in the late nineteenth century is being done today by intellectuals, politicians, and journalists in Europe and the United States.

Although Applebaum points out that any future collapse of democracy won't follow the same pattern as that seen in the 1930s, the modern-day equivalents of intellectuals like Maurras are likely to play a key role.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on