Back Issue Volume 15 | Nos 1-2 
Democratic Theory vs. Reality

Hayek, Habermas, and European Integration | Glyn Morgan

Abstract: Recent conflicts both within Europe and between Europe and the United States suggest that Europe's current political arrangements need to be adjusted. F. A. Hayek and Jürgen Habermas argued, albeit on very different grounds, for European political integration. Their arguments ultimately are not persuasive, but a "United States of Europe" can be justified—on the basis of its contribution to European security.

Means, Ends, and Public Ignorance in Habermas's Theory of Democracy | Matthew Weinshall

Abstract: According to the principles derived from his theory of discourse ethics, Habermas's model of deliberative democracy is justified only if the public is capable of making political decisions that advance the common good. Recent public-opinion research demonstrates that the public's overwhelming ignorance of politics precludes it from having such capabilities, even if radical measures were taken to thoroughly educate the public about politics or to increase the salience of politics in their lives.

Habermas vs. Weber on Democracy | Reihan Salam

Abstract: Habermas endorses democracy as a way to rescue modern life from the economic and bureaucratic compulsion that Weber saw as an inescapable condition of modernity. This rescue mission requires that Habermas subordinate democracy to people's true interests, by liberating their political deliberations from incursions of money or power that could interfere with the formation of policy preferences that clearly reflect those interests. But Habermas overlooks the opaque nature of our interests under complex modern conditions, and the difficulty of even knowing what the modern state is doing“let alone judging whether what it is doing serves our interests well. These overlooked sources of public ignorance buttress Weber's more pessimistic understanding of democracy, and like the theatrics surrounding popular sovereignty, public ignorance both enables and masks the autonomy that allows state officials and non-state opinion leaders to shape public policy undemocratically.

The Quiet Desperation of Robert Dahl's (Quiet) Radicalism | Tom Hoffman

Abstract: Robert Dahl's democratic theory has been remarkably consistent over the course of his long career. While Dahl has maintained a markedly unromantic view of modern democracy, and can best be read as an immanent critic of its liberal variant, he has steadily clung to certain radical aspirations, even as their prospects have waned. Dahl's often-unnoticed radicalism lies in his desire to see democracy break out of the institutional bonds of the liberal state. Reviewing his career forces one to consider the ultimately utopian character of his quiet radicalism and the significance of its apparent failure. Paradoxically, Dahl's call for the extension of democracy into the economic sphere would be less utopian if it were more radical at its foundation“that is, if his basic premises would lead him to seriously question citizens' existing preferences.

The Demagoguery of Democratic Theory | Peter Berkowitz

Abstract: For all of its blessings, democracy in America displays weaknesses. Democratic theorists both disguise and exacerbate these weaknesses by urging us, as imperatives of democratic justice, to extend the claims of equality to all practices and throughout all spheres of life; and to discount what people actually want in favor of what democratic theorists think that reason tells us people ought to want. Such theorizing encourages the evisceration of virtue, the trivialization of truth, the subjugation of chance, the fear of freedom, and the routinization of romantic love. To combat the dogmatism and despotism to which democracy is prone, it is necessary to preserve the distinction between democracy and justice.

Scale and Magnanimity in Civic Liberalism | Gus diZerega

Abstract: Thomas Spragens attempts to rebuild liberal theory by arguing that realist, libertarian, egalitarian, and identity liberals all have valid insights, but develop them one-sidedly. Re-examining the work of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century liberals leads, he contends, to a more balanced liberalism. Spragens's often-impressive effort to reconstruct liberalism is undermined by insufficient appreciation of the role of the scale of the polity and by confusions about civic friendship. Appreciation of Hayekian insights about spontaneous order, and of the limits of citizen knowledge in large polities, would help him solve the first problem. Distinguishing between friendship, friendliness, and social capital would help resolve the second.

Rawls on Pluralism and Stability | Robert B. Talisse

Abstract: Rawls's political liberalism abandons the traditional political-theory objective of providing a philosophical account of liberal democracy. However, Rawls also aims for a liberal political order endorsed by citizens on grounds deeper than what he calls a "modus vivendi" compromise; he contends that a liberal political order based upon a modus vivendi is unstable. The aspiration for a pluralist and "freestanding" liberalism is at odds with the goal of a liberalism endorsed as something deeper than a modus vivendi compromise among competing comprehensive doctrines. A liberalism that is supported "for its own sake" rather than as a compromise must necessarily be based on some conception of the good, of the sort that political liberalism eschews.

Reviving Natural Law | Leszek Kolakowski

Abstract: Despite numerous attempts to invalidate the concept of natural law as presupposing the belief in God or in universal rules of human Reason, this concept is no less valid now than it was in the thirteenth or seventeenth centuries. All that is required to uphold the belief in natural law is a kind of metaphysical faith in the notion of human dignity, which provides us with the surest barriers against both unjust positive legislation and totalitarian political systems.

Bringing Politics Back In: Rethinking the Asian Financial Crisis and its Aftermath | Shalendra D. Sharma

Abstract: We now have a fairly good understanding of the economic causes of the 1977 Asian financial crisis. There is as yet, however, little understanding of the politics behind the crisis. Not only did various political systems in Asia play a significant role in fomenting the crisis, they have also demonstrated remarkable capacities in dealing with its aftermath. Nowhere is this more evident than in the far-reaching economic reforms implemented by the Kim Dae-Jung administration in South Korea. The key to Korea's success in weathering the crisis lay in the decisive leadership of Kim Dae-Jung and in the "developmental state" structures and institutions he inherited“both of which exemplify the autonomy of a putatively democratic state from societal, especially elite, pressures.