What Democracy Is For: On Freedom and Moral Government

Princeton University Press
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In this provocative book, Stein Ringen argues that the world's democracies are failing to live up to their ideals--the United States and Great Britain most especially. The core value of democracy, he contends, is freedom, the freedom to live a good life according to one's own choosing. Yet he shows that democracy's freedom is on the decline. Citizens are increasingly distrustful of political systems weighted by money, and they don't participate in political affairs as they once did. Ringen warns of the risks we face if this trend continues, and puts forth an ambitious proposal for democratic reforms.

The issues that concern him are ones that should concern us all. They include education, poverty, the social and economic roles of families, the lack of democracy in our economic lives, and the need to rejuvenate municipal democracy. Along the way, Ringen proposes policy solutions aimed at restoring democracy, such as universal vouchers for education, substituting the principle of individual insurance for social-welfare pensions, and rethinking how we measure poverty in rich and poor countries. He calls for the revival of local democracy, a democratically grounded global economy, and the protection of political democracy from the transgressions of economic power.


The way to protect democracy is not to cheer it, but to reform it. What Democracy Is For offers a bold defense of democratic ideals, grounded in real reforms.

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About the author

Stein Ringen is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Oxford. His books include Citizens, Families, and Reform and The Possibility of Politics.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 9, 2009
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781400831678
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Possibility of Politics explores the power of political reform, specifically reform of the modern welfare state. Can reform be effective if limited to cautious and piecemeal interventions that avoid radicalism and revolution? Can it also avoid unwanted consequences? Will the welfare state survive in the future?

Stein Ringen views the welfare state as a large-scale experiment in political reform. To ask if the welfare state works is to ask if political reform is possible at all. By its nature, the welfare state is reform on a grand scale, for it attempts to change the circumstances individuals and families live under without changing and disrupting society itself. But is it realistic to believe a population can get together, set goals and then try to meet these goals through collective actions, specifically public policies, without causing unintended consequences and destroying the state in the process? The welfare state attempts, idealistically, to redistribute welfare without reshaping the economic processes that cause inequities in the first place. Ringen considers how well redistribution has met the test in terms of political legitimacy, its intended effects on poverty and inequality, as well as its undesired and unintended effects on economic efficiency and the quality of private life. Ultimately, does the welfare state work? Further, is the welfare state a good thing?

In considering these questions, The Possibility of Politics should be of particular value to academics and advanced students interested in political theory, public economics, social administration, and political sociology.

Stein Ringen is professor of sociology and social policy at Oxford University and a Fellow of Green College. He teaches social and political theory and research methodology for graduates in social policy, sociology, politics, economic and social history and other subjects.

 The Chinese system is like no other known to man, now or in history. This book explains how the system works and where it may be moving.


Drawing on Chinese and international sources, on extensive collaboration with Chinese scholars, and on the political science of state analysis, the author concludes that under the new leadership of Xi Jinping, the system of government has been transformed into a new regime radically harder and more ideological than the legacy of Deng Xiaoping. China is less strong economically and more dictatorial politically than the world has wanted to believe.

By analysing the leadership of Xi Jinping, the meaning of ‘socialist market economy’, corruption, the party-state apparatus, the reach of the party, the mechanisms of repression, taxation and public services, and state-society relations, the book broadens the field of China studies, as well as the fields of political economy, comparative politics, development, and welfare state studies.

‘A new interpretation of the Chinese party-state—shows the advantage that derives from a comparative theorist looking at the Chinese system.’
—Tony Saich, Harvard University

‘This is an excellent book which asks important questions about China’s future. In a lively and persuasive manner, the author vividly analyses key data in a comparative and theoretical manner. Far and away the best introduction to how the CCP dictatorship works.’
—Edward Friedman, University of Wisconsin-Madison

‘There is no lack of scholars and pundits abroad who tell us that dictatorship in China is for the greater good. In a timely and engagingly written book, Stein Ringen systematically demolishes all the components of this claim.’
—Frank Dikötter, University of Hong Kong

‘Stein Ringen shows how the Chinese state has used both fear and material inducements to build a “controlocracy” of a size and complexity unprecedented in world history. Perfect as a dictatorship, but brutal, destructive, and wasteful. The author’s encyclopedic understanding of his topic is based on a mastery of relevant scholarship and is delivered in clear, no-nonsense prose that bows to no one. Ideal as a textbook.’
—Perry Link, University of California, Riverside

‘China is a complex country, and there is a range of reasonable interpretations of its political system. Professor Ringen’s interpretation is different than my own, but China watchers need to engage with his thought-provoking and carefully argued assessment. If current trends of repression intensify, less pessimistic analysts will need to recognise that Ringen’s analysis may have been prescient.’
—Daniel A. Bell, Tsinghua University

‘Inspirational and trenchant. Stein Ringen’s book is a must-read to understand China’s politics, economy, ideology and social control, and its adaptability and challenges under the CCP’s rule, especially in the 21st century.’
—Teng Biao, Harvard Law School and New York University

‘Stein Ringen’s insights as a prominent political scientist enable a powerful examination of the Chinese state in a penetrating analysis that reaches strong conclusions which some will see as controversial. The book is scholarly, objective, and free from ideological partiality or insider bias. Whether one ultimately wishes to challenge or embrace his findings, the book should be read.’
—Lina Song, University of Nottingham

Click on these links for more information:
Blog: https://thechinesestate.com/  
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stein.ringen.7/about

In July 2004, Barack Obama electrified the Democratic National Convention with an address that spoke to Americans across the political spectrum. One phrase in particular anchored itself in listeners’ minds, a reminder that for all the discord and struggle to be found in our history as a nation, we have always been guided by a dogged optimism in the future, or what Obama called “the audacity of hope.”

The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama’s call for a different brand of politics—a politics for those weary of bitter partisanship and alienated by the “endless clash of armies” we see in congress and on the campaign trail; a politics rooted in the faith, inclusiveness, and nobility of spirit at the heart of “our improbable experiment in democracy.” He explores those forces—from the fear of losing to the perpetual need to raise money to the power of the media—that can stifle even the best-intentioned politician. He also writes, with surprising intimacy and self-deprecating humor, about settling in as a senator, seeking to balance the demands of public service and family life, and his own deepening religious commitment.

At the heart of this book is Barack Obama’s vision of how we can move beyond our divisions to tackle concrete problems. He examines the growing economic insecurity of American families, the racial and religious tensions within the body politic, and the transnational threats—from terrorism to pandemic—that gather beyond our shores. And he grapples with the role that faith plays in a democracy—where it is vital and where it must never intrude. Underlying his stories about family, friends, and members of the Senate is a vigorous search for connection: the foundation for a radically hopeful political consensus.

A public servant and a lawyer, a professor and a father, a Christian and a skeptic, and above all a student of history and human nature, Barack Obama has written a book of transforming power. Only by returning to the principles that gave birth to our Constitution, he says, can Americans repair a political process that is broken, and restore to working order a government that has fallen dangerously out of touch with millions of ordinary Americans. Those Americans are out there, he writes—“waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.”
Modern families are economic institutions of great productivity. They contribute as much to a society's economic well-being as does worker productivity in formal markets. In Citizens, Families, and Reform, Stein Ringen shows how long-standing inequalities of income and class are flexible and changing in post-industrial societies. Such inequalities respond to structural changes such as social mobility and to public policies such as those of the welfare state. His book is a study of the process from careful statistical analysis to specific policy recommendations.The book draws on two strands of research, one on children and families and the other on social inequality. Both summarize detailed statistical analysis. Ringen's basic premise is that prudent social policy should start from investment in families. Progress and reform in society, such as extended access to education, tends to modify social divisions and stimulate open opportunity, particularly in the area of higher education. The book addresses the situation of children, who have a surprisingly lower standard of living than adult population groups by most measures of well-being. Ringen attributes this disparity to flaws in the distribution of power, which leads to the disenfranchisement of children as citizens. He addresses this problem by discussing children and voting rights, building a case for realizing the ideal of one person, one vote, by extending the vote to children.Real democracies are necessarily imperfect. Ringen argues for the classical liberal theory of social progress through economic growth and equality of opportunity and warns against the "terrible temptation towards perfection." His new introduction reviews the debates sparked by the book's original publication in 1997 and suggests areas in which his arguments have been vindicated.
The Possibility of Politics explores the power of political reform, specifically reform of the modern welfare state. Can reform be effective if limited to cautious and piecemeal interventions that avoid radicalism and revolution? Can it also avoid unwanted consequences? Will the welfare state survive in the future?Stein Ringen views the welfare state as a large-scale experiment in political reform. To ask if the welfare state works is to ask if political reform is possible at all. By its nature, the welfare state is reform on a grand scale, for it attempts to change the circumstances individuals and families live under without changing and disrupting society itself. But is it realistic to believe a population can get together, set goals and then try to meet these goals through collective actions, specifically public policies, without causing unintended consequences and destroying the state in the process? The welfare state attempts, idealistically, to redistribute welfare without reshaping the economic processes that cause inequities in the first place. Ringen considers how well redistribution has met the test in terms of political legitimacy, its intended effects on poverty and inequality, as well as its undesired and unintended effects on economic efficiency and the quality of private life. Ultimately, does the welfare state work? Further, is the welfare state a good thing?In considering these questions, The Possibility of Politics should be of particular value to academics and advanced students interested in political theory, public economics, social administration, and political sociology.Stein Ringen is professor of sociology and social policy at Oxford University and a Fellow of Green College. He teaches social and political theory and research methodology for graduates in social policy, sociology, politics, economic and social history and other subjects.
The Possibility of Politics explores the power of political reform, specifically reform of the modern welfare state. Can reform be effective if limited to cautious and piecemeal interventions that avoid radicalism and revolution? Can it also avoid unwanted consequences? Will the welfare state survive in the future?

Stein Ringen views the welfare state as a large-scale experiment in political reform. To ask if the welfare state works is to ask if political reform is possible at all. By its nature, the welfare state is reform on a grand scale, for it attempts to change the circumstances individuals and families live under without changing and disrupting society itself. But is it realistic to believe a population can get together, set goals and then try to meet these goals through collective actions, specifically public policies, without causing unintended consequences and destroying the state in the process? The welfare state attempts, idealistically, to redistribute welfare without reshaping the economic processes that cause inequities in the first place. Ringen considers how well redistribution has met the test in terms of political legitimacy, its intended effects on poverty and inequality, as well as its undesired and unintended effects on economic efficiency and the quality of private life. Ultimately, does the welfare state work? Further, is the welfare state a good thing?

In considering these questions, The Possibility of Politics should be of particular value to academics and advanced students interested in political theory, public economics, social administration, and political sociology.

Stein Ringen is professor of sociology and social policy at Oxford University and a Fellow of Green College. He teaches social and political theory and research methodology for graduates in social policy, sociology, politics, economic and social history and other subjects.

There are two great mysteries in the political economy of South Korea. How could a destroyed country in next to no time become a sophisticated and affluent economy? And how could a ruthlessly authoritarian regime metamorphose with relative ease into a stable democratic polity? South Korea was long ruled with harsh authoritarianism, but, strangely, the authoritarian rulers made energetic use of social policy. The Korean State and Social Policy observes South Korean public policy from 1945 to 2000 through the prism of social policy to examine how the rulers operated and worked. After the military coup in 1961, the new leaders used social policy to buy themselves legitimacy. That enabled them to rule in two very different ways simultaneously. In their determination to hold on to power they were without mercy, but in the use of power in governance, their strategy was to co-opt and mobilize with a sophistication that is wholly exceptional among authoritarian rulers. It is governance and not power that explains the Korean miracle. Mobilization is a strategy with consequences. South Korea was not only led to economic development but also, inadvertently perhaps, built up as a society rich in public and civil institutions. When authoritarianism collapsed under the force of nationwide uprisings in 1987, the institutions of a reasonably pluralistic social and political order were there, alive and well, and democracy could take over without further serious drama. This book is about many things: development and modernization, dictatorship and democracy, state capacity and governance, social protection and welfare states, and Korean history. But finally it is about lifting social policy analysis out of the ghetto of self-sufficiency it is often confined to and into the center ground of hard political science.
Modern families are economic institutions of great productivity. They contribute as much to a society's economic well-being as does worker productivity in formal markets. In Citizens, Families, and Reform, Stein Ringen shows how long-standing inequalities of income and class are flexible and changing in post-industrial societies. Such inequalities respond to structural changes such as social mobility and to public policies such as those of the welfare state. His book is a study of the process from careful statistical analysis to specific policy recommendations.The book draws on two strands of research, one on children and families and the other on social inequality. Both summarize detailed statistical analysis. Ringen's basic premise is that prudent social policy should start from investment in families. Progress and reform in society, such as extended access to education, tends to modify social divisions and stimulate open opportunity, particularly in the area of higher education. The book addresses the situation of children, who have a surprisingly lower standard of living than adult population groups by most measures of well-being. Ringen attributes this disparity to flaws in the distribution of power, which leads to the disenfranchisement of children as citizens. He addresses this problem by discussing children and voting rights, building a case for realizing the ideal of one person, one vote, by extending the vote to children.Real democracies are necessarily imperfect. Ringen argues for the classical liberal theory of social progress through economic growth and equality of opportunity and warns against the "terrible temptation towards perfection." His new introduction reviews the debates sparked by the book's original publication in 1997 and suggests areas in which his arguments have been vindicated.
 The Chinese system is like no other known to man, now or in history. This book explains how the system works and where it may be moving.


Drawing on Chinese and international sources, on extensive collaboration with Chinese scholars, and on the political science of state analysis, the author concludes that under the new leadership of Xi Jinping, the system of government has been transformed into a new regime radically harder and more ideological than the legacy of Deng Xiaoping. China is less strong economically and more dictatorial politically than the world has wanted to believe.

By analysing the leadership of Xi Jinping, the meaning of ‘socialist market economy’, corruption, the party-state apparatus, the reach of the party, the mechanisms of repression, taxation and public services, and state-society relations, the book broadens the field of China studies, as well as the fields of political economy, comparative politics, development, and welfare state studies.

‘A new interpretation of the Chinese party-state—shows the advantage that derives from a comparative theorist looking at the Chinese system.’
—Tony Saich, Harvard University

‘This is an excellent book which asks important questions about China’s future. In a lively and persuasive manner, the author vividly analyses key data in a comparative and theoretical manner. Far and away the best introduction to how the CCP dictatorship works.’
—Edward Friedman, University of Wisconsin-Madison

‘There is no lack of scholars and pundits abroad who tell us that dictatorship in China is for the greater good. In a timely and engagingly written book, Stein Ringen systematically demolishes all the components of this claim.’
—Frank Dikötter, University of Hong Kong

‘Stein Ringen shows how the Chinese state has used both fear and material inducements to build a “controlocracy” of a size and complexity unprecedented in world history. Perfect as a dictatorship, but brutal, destructive, and wasteful. The author’s encyclopedic understanding of his topic is based on a mastery of relevant scholarship and is delivered in clear, no-nonsense prose that bows to no one. Ideal as a textbook.’
—Perry Link, University of California, Riverside

‘China is a complex country, and there is a range of reasonable interpretations of its political system. Professor Ringen’s interpretation is different than my own, but China watchers need to engage with his thought-provoking and carefully argued assessment. If current trends of repression intensify, less pessimistic analysts will need to recognise that Ringen’s analysis may have been prescient.’
—Daniel A. Bell, Tsinghua University

‘Inspirational and trenchant. Stein Ringen’s book is a must-read to understand China’s politics, economy, ideology and social control, and its adaptability and challenges under the CCP’s rule, especially in the 21st century.’
—Teng Biao, Harvard Law School and New York University

‘Stein Ringen’s insights as a prominent political scientist enable a powerful examination of the Chinese state in a penetrating analysis that reaches strong conclusions which some will see as controversial. The book is scholarly, objective, and free from ideological partiality or insider bias. Whether one ultimately wishes to challenge or embrace his findings, the book should be read.’
—Lina Song, University of Nottingham

Click on these links for more information:
Blog: https://thechinesestate.com/  
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stein.ringen.7/about

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