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Liberal Democracy and its Critics. Perspectives in Contemporary Political Thought

  • ID: 4071934
  • Book
  • 256 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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Liberal Democracy and its Critics examines the contribution of eleven contemporary political social theorists to understanding democracy today. The theorists are prominent in political and philosophical debates in the 1990s, for example between neo–liberalism (Hayek) and social liberalism (Rawls), and between liberalism and republicanism (Arendt), communitarianism (Taylor and Walzer), ′anti–political politics′ (Havel) and feminism (Pateman and Young). The book also explores how the philosophical defence of universalism (Habermas) or critiques of it (Foucault and Rorty) impinge on assessments of liberal democracy.

The eleven theorists reflect varying approaches to key issues in democratic thought since 1945: liberal constitutionalism or popular sovereignty, elitism or participation and parliamentary or council democracy. Many also engage with more recent themes such as civil society, the politics of difference, deliberative democracy, and the nature of cosmopolitan democracy. Some focus on the justification of democracy, others make specific institutional proposals.

The chapters set the thinkers within their intellectual and political contexts and explore the relationship between their philosophical positions and explicit or implicit views on democracy. They will be of interest both to students of contemporary social thought and of democracy.

Contributors to the book include Margaret Canovan, April Carter, Don Fletcher, John Horton, Mark Kingwell, Chandran Kukathas, Martin Leet, Lois McNay, Barbara Sullivan, Katherine Welton and Jonathan Wolff.

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Preface and Acknowledgements.


Introduction: Liberal Democracy and its Critics: April Carter and Geoffrey Stokes .

1. Friedrich Hayek: Elitism and Democracy: Chandran Kukathas.

2. Hannah Arendt: Republicanism and Democracy: Margaret Canovan.

3. Vaclav Havel: Civil Society, Citizenship and Democracy: April Carter.

4. Jurgen Habermas and Deliberative Democracy: Martin Leet.

5. Richard Rorty: Postmodernism and a Pragmatic Defence of Democracy: Katherine Welton.

6. John Rawls: Liberal Democracy Restated: Jonathan Wolff.

7. Michael Walzer: Pluralism, Justice and Democracy: Mark Kingwell.

8. Charles Taylor: Selfhood, Community and Democracy: John Horton.

9. Carole Pateman: Participatory Democracy and Feminism: Barbara Sullivan.

10. Iris Marion Young: The Politics of Difference, Justice and Democracy: Don Fletcher.

11. Michel Foucault and Agonistic Democracy: Lois McNay.


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"Into the turmoil of debate about the nature of liberal democracy comes this lucid and coherent collection of papers. While democracy may no longer have any serious enemies, its best friends are those who are able to state frankly where it needs improvement. There is much stimulating commentary in this book, which will inform the beginning student, provoke the established scholar, and perhaps challenge the social reformer."
Graham Maddox, Professor Political Science, The University of New England
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