Here we examine the expression ‘democracy’, and try to
disentangle its value as an objective term of analysis and its misuse as
a tool of propaganda. The focus is on ‘liberal democracy’.
First the various dimensions of democracy and the notion of democracy
are considered, and the idea of democracy as ‘the sovereign
people’ governed by consent is closely examined. Then the issue
N T H E P R E C E D I N G chapter I tried to construct a radical understanding
of ethics, founding it not on some pre-given notion of the good or a rational
consensus, but rather on the singularity of an event which disrupts this consensus. Furthermore, I suggested that ethics must contain an anti-authoritarian
dimension which situates itself in opposition to established political institutions
and practices. Ethics, in other words, is what opens political institutions to the
other that they exclude, revealing the undecidability of their own
The concept of democracy is central to
our contemporary political vocabularies, yet agreement on how to
conceptualise democracy is far from widespread. 1 As Adam Przeworski has recently remarked:
‘Perusing innumerable definitions, one discovers that democracy has
become an altar on which everyone hangs his or her favorite ex
voto .’ 2
Certainly we can say that
Drawing on the insights of political theory as well as empirical and comparative government, the book provides an up-to-date overview of the theories and practice of referendums and initiatives around the world. The book discusses if we ought to hold more referendums, and how the processes of direct democracy have been used – and occasionally abused -around the world.
Representational democracy is at the heart of the UK’s political constitution, and the electoral system is central to achieving it. But is the first-past-the-post system used to elect the UK parliament truly representative? To answer that question requires an understanding of several factors: debates over the nature of representation; the evolution of the current electoral system; how first-past-the-post distorts electoral politics; and how else elections might be conducted. Running through all these debates are issues over the representation not only of people but also of places. The book examines all of these issues and focuses on the effect of geography on the operation of the electoral system.
This book explores the political implications of violence and alterity (radical difference) for the practice of democracy, and reformulates the possibility of community that democracy is said to entail. Most significantly, contributors intervene in traditional democratic theory by contesting the widely held assumption that increased inclusion, tolerance and cultural recognition are democracy's sufficient conditions. Rather than simply inquiring how best to expand the ‘demos’, they investigate how claims to self-determination, identity and sovereignty are a problem for democracy, and how, paradoxically, alterity may be its greatest strength. Contributions include an appeal to the tension between fear and love in the face of anti-Semitism in Poland, injunctions to rethink the identity-difference binary and the ideal of ‘mutual recognition’ that dominate liberal-democratic thought, critiques of the canonical ‘we’ which constitutes the democratic community, and a call for an ethics and a politics of ‘dissensus’ in democratic struggles against racist and sexist oppression. The contributors mobilise some of the most powerful critical insights emerging across the social sciences and humanities—from anthropology, sociology, critical legal studies, Marxism, psychoanalysis, critical race theory and post-colonial studies—to reconsider the meaning and the possibility of ‘democracy’ in the face of its contemporary crisis.
Democracy and social democracy
One of the enduring themes in David Marquand’s work is on the ‘democracy’
bit of social democracy; and that is the theme explored here. This means saying
something about how the social democratic tradition has viewed democracy,
in Britain in particular, and where matters stand now. It may then be possible
to offer some suggestions for the future, both in terms of thought and action.
Origins and ideas
It was the aim of social democrats to put the ‘social’ into democracy. If equality
and citizenship were good enough
Social democracy has made a political comeback in recent years, especially under the influence of the ‘Third Way’. Not everyone is convinced, however, that ‘Third Way’ social democracy is the best means of reviving the Left's project. This book considers this dissent and offers an alternative approach. Bringing together a range of social and political theories, it engages with some contemporary debates regarding the present direction and future of the Left. Drawing upon egalitarian, feminist and environmental ideas, the book proposes that the social democratic tradition can be renewed but only if the dominance of conservative ideas is challenged more effectively. It explores a number of issues with this aim in mind, including justice, the state, democracy, new technologies, future generations and the advances in genetics.
As the globalization of democracy becomes increasingly palpable, the political obstacles to its achievement become overshadowed by more vexing questions concerning the very nature of democracy itself. This book examines some of the philosophical and theoretical debates underlying the 'democratic project' which increasingly dominates the field of comparative development. The first concern presented is normative and epistemological: as democracy becomes widely accepted as the political currency of legitimacy, the more broadly it is defined. The second issue examined refers to the claims being made regarding how best to secure a democratic system in developing states. The book shows how 'democracy' has quickly become, both academically and politically, all things to all people: it represents a philosophical ideal, a political strategy, and an instrument of economic well-being. It looks at some of the philosophical debates underlying democracy in order to explain why it has evolved into such an ambiguous concept. The book surveys the arguments supporting the expansion of 'democracy' from its individualistic orientations to an account more able to accommodate the concerns and aspirations of groups. Critical assessments of these new trends in democratic theory are presented. The book examines the political contexts within which debates about democratization are centred. A discussion on the claim that a robust democracy depends upon our ability to 'strengthen civil society', follows. The book situates the debate over democracy and development more closely by examining the political context surrounding the inflation of democratic meaning. It examines the consequences of the globalization of democratic norms.
In the twentieth century claims for democracy were made by many, yet few states became democracies. In the early twenty-first century democracy appears to be ubiquitous. Western European and North American states have been joined by former communist states and dictatorships in the ‘family of democracies’, while wars continue to be waged to depose dictators and to bring democracy and freedom to previously suppressed people. In addition to this, democracy can be found in classrooms or workplaces. Not all democracies are the same – a