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Democracy Past and Future

Democracy Past and Future

Samuel Moyn
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Democracy Past and Future
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51044-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments and Permissions
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Antitotalitarianism and After
    (pp. 1-28)
    Samuel Moyn

    It was not long after democracy triumphed as a regime, in the post–cold war era, that the theory and practice of democracy fell into disarray. In the United States, as in the rest of the world, democracy has never been more prestigious, among intellectuals and policymakers, even as its practical implications for foreign policy have become disquieting and its institutional content at home has undergone massive shifts. The unanimity—left, right, and center—about the value and importance of democracy is remarkable, to be sure. But it occurs at the same time that it is hollowed out or even...

  5. Part I. The Study of Politics in History

    • CHAPTER 1 Inaugural Lecture, Collège de France
      (pp. 31-58)

      I thank you for receiving me in your midst. At this inaugural moment today, I am first of all aware of the responsibility that falls on me as a result of your decision to open your courses of instruction to the most living of the problems of contemporary politics. But I am most conscious of the wonderful opportunity that you have accorded me. It is an opportunity, at a moment I hope to be the midpoint of my career, to invigorate my researches with a new energy, by relocating them in an intellectual milieu unique thanks to the radical freedom...

    • CHAPTER 2 Toward a Philosophical History of the Political
      (pp. 59-76)

      The past twenty years or so have witnessed a “return of the political,” a phrase now hackneyed by overuse.¹ Such a return can be explained by the concurrence of two factors. First, it belongs to a moment in history: that of the rediscovery of the centrality of the question of democracy and of its problematic nature. Until the end of the 1960s, the vision of a central ideological divide served to organize intellectual space around the opposition between the two prevailing visions of the world: the Marxist and the liberal. The advocates of classical parliamentary democracy and the champions of...

  6. Part II. The Voluntarist Drive to Unity

    • CHAPTER 3 Revolutionary Democracy
      (pp. 79-97)

      The sovereign people? During the French Revolution, it was the order of the day as a political principle before its meaning was defined sociologically: in this concept, indissociably imperious and vague, the life-giving principle of democracy can be found. It is imperious because all power must flow from it. But it is vague because it is anonymous. And this anonymity is striking already in the iconography of the revolutionary period. Only rarely do the people appear in it as a collection of individuals or of identifiable groups. Faceless, the people most often take the form of compact mass, ordered according...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Republic of Universal Suffrage
      (pp. 98-114)

      The republican idea acquired a far more complex significance in France after 1830. It no longer designated a particular type of political system that referred only to the memory of 1792 or evoked the government of ancient cities. Identified with the theme of universal suffrage, reference to the republic neatly concentrated a whole ensemble of social and cultural aspirations into a single word. The republic of universal suffrage implied, above all, the search for a society without divisions. Indeed, the central problem of the first years of the July monarchy was that of social division. The onset of industrialization widened...

  7. Part III. The Allure of Rationalism

    • CHAPTER 5 François Guizot and the Sovereignty of Reason
      (pp. 117-126)

      The Restoration (1814/15–1830) in France was a true golden age of political reflection. After the excesses of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire, all writers began to pose the question of what the proper foundations were of a social and political order that would both achieve stability and protect liberties. From this came a central preoccupation: to allow politics to leave behind the domain of the passions and to enter the Age of Reason, and to substitute for the vagaries of the will the regularities of a scientific order. From all quarters sounded a critique of the dogma...

    • CHAPTER 6 Political Rationalism and Democracy in France
      (pp. 127-144)

      In France, there is a way of thinking about freedom that often impedes its realization. To understand it fully, one can begin with what appears to be a foundational contradiction in French political culture: the encounter between political rationalism and popular sovereignty.

      France’s Enlightenment heritage is not comparable to English liberalism. In France, the struggle against arbitrary rule and the protection of liberties took place through tribute to rational government and not by the establishment of representative procedures. The French Revolution’s great contribution, for its part, was to affirm, earlier than anywhere else, the principle of popular sovereignty. A cult...

  8. Part IV. Civil Society

    • CHAPTER 7 The Market, Liberalism, and Anti-liberalism
      (pp. 147-159)

      The end of the twentieth century saw the market economy celebrated and vituperated by turns. Around 1980, it triumphed; after two centuries of suspicions and denunciations, it was finally recognized as an unsurpassable mechanism for the regulation of complex systems. The very meaning of the socialist project came to be completely upset, notably after the twilight of communism finally retired the principles of the command economy and collective ownership of the means of production. But then, in the late 1990s, the tensions born of globalization and a financial and monetary crisis nourished a diffuse movement of opinion against neoliberalism, suspected...

    • CHAPTER 8 Marx and Civil Society
      (pp. 160-186)

      It is well known that Karl Marx’s thought originated in a critique of Hegel. Marx’s reversal of Hegel has generally been understood as an inversion intended to place Hegel “on his feet” (as Marx put it). But, at least in the dominant Marxist approaches, the relation between Hegel and Marx has constantly been reduced to a simple opposition between idealism and materialism. It is of course not false to think of the relationship as an inversion. But the full meaning of this inversion only comes into view when one places it in the context of Hegel’s relation to British political...

  9. Part V. The Future of Democracy

    • CHAPTER 9 From the Past to the Future of Democracy
      (pp. 189-217)

      How to understand the turning point of the 1990s, which strangely saw the disenchantment with the life of democracies grow at the very moment that the fall of communism seemed to vindicate their supremacy? Did it follow simply from a tacit concession to the ideological trends of the time? From an unreflective submission to the consequences of European integration—unreflective because they were so imperceptible for so long? From a discreet abdication of politics before the new potency of the world economy? The blindness of men and the passivity of governments certainly had a role in this historical reversal, which...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Transformation of Democracy and the Future of Europe
      (pp. 218-234)

      The utility of Europe in an ever more globalized economy and an increasingly unstable world is self-evident but problematic. In reality, Europe is a project that has yet to find a political form adequate to its ambitions and to the expectations of the citizens of its various member states. For this reason, it has become commonplace, in the last ten years, to denounce the deficit in legitimacy that is supposed to characterize the functioning of European institutions and to call for their “democratization.” Hesitation and impatience have combined, in this atmosphere, to increase the number of skeptics at precisely the...

  10. POSTSCRIPT: Democracy in an Era of Distrust
    (pp. 235-252)

    The erosion of the trust of citizens in their leaders and in democratic institutions has been one of the most heavily studied phenomena in political science over the last twenty years. A series of famous works, in a national or comparative framework, have clearly established a diagnosis for the malady, and they are sufficiently well known to make it unnecessary to revisit them. It is simply useful to emphasize that eroding trust does not necessarily imply civic apathy, at least as precisely as one might be led to believe by those who consider the growth of electoral abstention the privileged...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 253-282)
  12. Bibliography of Pierre Rosanvallon’s Principal Writings
    (pp. 283-288)
  13. Index
    (pp. 289-294)