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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Pierre Rosanvallon
Democracy Past and Future is the first English-language collection of Pierre Rosanvallon's most important essays on the historical origins, contemporary difficulties, and future prospects of democratic life.

One of Europe's leading political thinkers, Rosanvallon proposes in these essays new readings of the history, aims, and possibilities of democratic theory and practice, and provides unique theoretical understandings of key moments in democracy's trajectory, from the French Revolution and the struggles for universal suffrage to European unification and the crises of the present. In so doing, he lays out an influential new theory of how to write the history of politics. Rosanvallon's historical and philosophical approach examines the "pathologies" that have curtailed democracy's potential and challenges the antitotalitarian liberalism that has dominated recent political thought. All in all, he adroitly combines historical and theoretical analysis with an insistence on the need for a new form of democracy. Above all, he asks what democracy means when the people rule but are nowhere to be found.

Throughout his career, Rosanvallon has resisted simple categorization. Rosanvallon was originally known as a primary theorist of the "second left", which hoped to stake out a non-Marxist progressive alternative to the irresistible appeal of revolutionary politics. In fact, Rosanvallon revived the theory of "civil society" even before its usage by East European dissidents made it globally popular as a non-statist politics of freedom and pluralism. His ideas have been shaped by a variety of influences, ranging from his work with an influential French union to his teachers François Furet and Claude Lefort.

Well known throughout Europe as a historian, political theorist, social critic, and public intellectual, Pierre Rosanvallon was recently elected to a professorship at the Collège de France, Paris, a position held at various times by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, and Pierre Bourdieu. Democracy Past and Future begins with Rosanvallon's groundbreaking and synthetic lecture that he delivered upon joining this institution. Throughout the volume, Rosanvallon illuminates and invigorates contemporary political and democratic thought.

Barack Obama
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.”
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