Democratic Legitimacy: Impartiality, Reflexivity, Proximity

Princeton University Press
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It's a commonplace that citizens in Western democracies are disaffected with their political leaders and traditional democratic institutions. But in Democratic Legitimacy, Pierre Rosanvallon, one of today's leading political thinkers, argues that this crisis of confidence is partly a crisis of understanding. He makes the case that the sources of democratic legitimacy have shifted and multiplied over the past thirty years and that we need to comprehend and make better use of these new sources of legitimacy in order to strengthen our political self-belief and commitment to democracy.

Drawing on examples from France and the United States, Rosanvallon notes that there has been a major expansion of independent commissions, NGOs, regulatory authorities, and watchdogs in recent decades. At the same time, constitutional courts have become more willing and able to challenge legislatures. These institutional developments, which serve the democratic values of impartiality and reflexivity, have been accompanied by a new attentiveness to what Rosanvallon calls the value of proximity, as governing structures have sought to find new spaces for minorities, the particular, and the local. To improve our democracies, we need to use these new sources of legitimacy more effectively and we need to incorporate them into our accounts of democratic government.


An original contribution to the vigorous international debate about democratic authority and legitimacy, this promises to be one of Rosanvallon's most important books.

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About the author

Pierre Rosanvallon is professor at the Collège de France and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His many books include Counter- Democracy, The Demands of Liberty, Democracy Past and Future, and The New Social Question (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 5, 2011
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Pages
248
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ISBN
9781400838745
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Few would disagree that Western democracies are experiencing a crisis of representation. In the United States, gerrymandering and concentrated political geographies have placed the Congress and state legislatures in a stranglehold that is often at odds with public opinion. Campaign financing ensures that only the affluent have voice in legislation. Europeans, meanwhile, increasingly see the European Union as an anti-democratic body whose “diktats” have no basis in popular rule. The response, however, has not been an effective pursuit of better representation. In Good Government, Pierre Rosanvallon examines the long history of the alternative to which the public has gravitated: the empowered executive. Rosanvallon argues that, faced with everyday ineptitude in governance, people become attracted to strong leaders and bold executive action. If these fail, they too often want even stronger personal leadership. Whereas nineteenth-century liberals and reformers longed for parliamentary sovereignty, nowadays few contest the “imperial presidency.” Rosanvallon traces this history from the Weimar Republic to Charles De Gaulle’s “exceptional” presidency to the Bush-Cheney concentration of executive power. Europeans rebelling against the technocratic EU and Americans fed up with the “administrative state” have turned to charismatic figures, from Donald Trump to Viktor Orbán, who tout personal strength as their greatest asset. This is not just a right-wing phenomenon, though, as liberal contentment with Obama’s drone war demonstrates. Rosanvallon makes clear that contemporary “presidentialism” may reflect the particular concerns of the moment, but its many precursors demonstrate that democracy has always struggled with tension between popular government and concentrated authority.
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.”
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“Epic and debate-shifting.” —David Brooks, New York Times

"More than any book published so far in this century, it deserves to be called a conservative classic." —Yuval Levin, National Review

With his trademark blend of political history, social science, economics, and pop culture, two-time NYT bestselling author, syndicated columnist, National Review senior editor, and American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg makes the timely case that America and other democracies are in peril as they lose the will to defend the values and institutions that sustain freedom and prosperity. Instead we are surrendering to populism, nationalism and other forms of tribalism.
 
Only once in the last 250,000 years have humans stumbled upon a way to lift ourselves out of the endless cycle of poverty, hunger, and war that defines most of history—in 18th century England when we accidentally discovered the miracle of liberal democratic capitalism.
 
As Americans we are doubly blessed that those radical ideas were written into the Constitution, laying the groundwork for our uniquely prosperous society:
·         Our rights come from God not from the government.
·         The government belongs to us; we do not belong to the government.
·         The individual is sovereign. We are all captains of our own souls.
·         The fruits of our labors belong to us.
 
In the last few decades, these political virtues have been turned into vices. As we are increasingly taught to view our traditions as a system of oppression, exploitation and “white privilege,” the principles of liberty and the rule of law are under attack from left and right.

At a moment when authoritarianism, tribalism, identity politics, nationalism, and cults of personality are rotting our democracy from within, Goldberg exposes the West’s suicidal tendencies on both sides of the ideological aisle. For the West to survive, we must renew our sense of gratitude for what our civilization has given us and rediscover the ideals that led us out of the bloody muck of the past – or back to the muck we will go.

Suicide is painless, liberty takes work.
Few would disagree that Western democracies are experiencing a crisis of representation. In the United States, gerrymandering and concentrated political geographies have placed the Congress and state legislatures in a stranglehold that is often at odds with public opinion. Campaign financing ensures that only the affluent have voice in legislation. Europeans, meanwhile, increasingly see the European Union as an anti-democratic body whose “diktats” have no basis in popular rule. The response, however, has not been an effective pursuit of better representation. In Good Government, Pierre Rosanvallon examines the long history of the alternative to which the public has gravitated: the empowered executive. Rosanvallon argues that, faced with everyday ineptitude in governance, people become attracted to strong leaders and bold executive action. If these fail, they too often want even stronger personal leadership. Whereas nineteenth-century liberals and reformers longed for parliamentary sovereignty, nowadays few contest the “imperial presidency.” Rosanvallon traces this history from the Weimar Republic to Charles De Gaulle’s “exceptional” presidency to the Bush-Cheney concentration of executive power. Europeans rebelling against the technocratic EU and Americans fed up with the “administrative state” have turned to charismatic figures, from Donald Trump to Viktor Orbán, who tout personal strength as their greatest asset. This is not just a right-wing phenomenon, though, as liberal contentment with Obama’s drone war demonstrates. Rosanvallon makes clear that contemporary “presidentialism” may reflect the particular concerns of the moment, but its many precursors demonstrate that democracy has always struggled with tension between popular government and concentrated authority.
Senza una vera uguaglianza la democrazia si riduce a forma di regime, e non può diventare società, comunità di singoli che condividono un terreno comune. Pierre Rosanvallon prosegue con questo libro la sua analisi della crisi del sistema democratico e ne individua la ragione profonda proprio nell'arretramento del concetto di uguaglianza e nello svilimento del suo significato. La società prodotta dal trionfo del neoliberismo - un'ideologia pervasiva che è riuscita a trasformare la propria parziale interpretazione della realtà in un insieme di verità non più discutibili - è il mondo della disuguaglianza, che non è solo ingiusto, ma anche minaccioso, violento e aperto all'irruzione di un populismo basato sull'esclusione. La sinistra ha progressivamente accettato questa visione. Può arrivare a governare, ma di fatto non rappresenta più "l'immagine positiva di un mondo desiderabile", qualcosa per cui valga la pena combattere e sulla quale progettare un futuro migliore. A un'analisi della situazione attuale, Rosanvallon risponde con la necessità di rifondare una vera e propria filosofia dell'uguaglianza che sia basata sulla partecipazione e sulla reciprocità. Una "società di eguali" che non può più fare ricorso alla spesa pubblica ma nemmeno consegnarsi al mito della meritocrazia, che pensi contemporaneamente i concetti di comunità e differenza e ponga il principio di un'"uguaglianza-relazione", capace di produrre un vero legame sociale. Prefazione di Corrado Ocone.
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