Book review of Two Cheers for Politics: Why Democracy Is Flawed, Frightening – and Our Best Hope by Jedediah Purdy

It would be far better that democracy does not face the trials it is currently facing. But if there is any blessing in today’s crisis, it lies in a renewed effort to understand what democracy is, how it can flourish and—to paraphrase the title of a recent famous book—How It dies.

An urgent moral and intellectual inquiry into the fragility of democracy has replaced the complacency that took hold after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That conquest could easily blind citizens to the ways in which their institutions were less democratic than they thought were less inclusive and less stable. The resurgence of authoritarian movements in what appeared to be solidly democratic nations and deepening repression in China have eliminated any fraud.

One of the highlights of Jedediah Purdy’s “Two Cheers for Politics” It is that he does not take democracy lightly. He knows he needs new forms of defence, and he challenges political structures we once thought were working fine.

The subtitle of this thoughtful philosophical rumble, “Why Democracy Is Flawed, Frightening—and Our Best Hope,” Purdy’s awareness that those who offer a rote defense of democratic systems are genuinely skeptical about how they work and often fear what would happen if distrust of the majority gave way to democratic methods. gained power from

A community progressive and a professor at Columbia Law School, Purdy combines harsh criticisms of inequality with a warm tone of hope and a degree of longing for faith in our barricades of doubt.

What he is saying is tantamount to a new ecology of democracy. If we need clean air and clean water to preserve life, then we need social solidarity, trust and real equality to an extent to save democracy.

“What does it mean to put democracy first?” Purdy quickly asks. “This means asking whether our culture, our economy, and our politics help us see each other as equals who can govern together. This means that culture, economy, and politics are both democratic equality and Citizens’ trust can undermine both, if the people are to rule together.”

Read |  The silence that tells Joe Biden who his real allies are. Henry McDonald

yes, ruling with point is. It means, as Purdy shows with visits from Hobbes and Rousseau to Robert Dahl and Samuel Huntington, through political philosophy and political science, that democratic citizens are simultaneously ruled and ruled. This is no easy matter.

In theory, at least, democracy allows us – collectively – to shape our own destiny. But we agree to live with the results of democratic elections, even when our sides, our views and our interests are lost, knowing that we may prevail in the future.

It is good that an academic critic of our system picks up mass elections as a fair and fair way of self-control by collecting our priorities on a regular basis. “Anything that moves toward universal voting,” he writes, “gets closer to democracy.”

And this, I think, explains why Purdy put politics in his title and democracy in the subtitle: You can’t really believe in democracy unless you believe in politics.

Thus his book invites comparison with British political theorist Bernard Crick’s 1962 classic, “In Defense of Politics”. Crick’s formulation – that politics is at once conservative, liberal and socialist – is consistent with Purdy’s argument. Both authors present an approach from the democratic left that still respects some conservative tendencies and aspirations.

In Crick’s view, politics is conservative because it “preserves the minimum benefits of the established order”; liberal, “because it is associated with special liberties and requires tolerance”; and socialist, because “it deliberately provides the conditions for social change by which groups may feel that they have an equal share in the prosperity and existence of the community.”

Equality and social change are particularly important to Purdy, and some of the sharpest criticisms of the book are directed at liberal protagonist Friedrich Hayek’s argument that state intervention in the market should be sharply limited.

Hayek, Purdy argues, highlights the need to curb state power, but does so in a way that ignores the dangers of concentrated economic power. Purdy writes that Hayek proposed to redefine “democracy in the form of public consensus as a set of rules that would enforce the apparently neutral processes of the market without state intervention.”

Read |  In Wake of the Flood, Distinctive Barbs at Kentucky Political Event

This, Purdy insists, is “a particular apolitical Agenda, which used both the institutions of the state and the public philosophy of government to narrow the scope of legitimate argument about the distribution of wealth and power and the nature of value.

His criticism here points to the ways in which Purdy is down in a democratic way. His argument against class inequality is above all a matter of equal dignity of every citizen. His affection for democracy is rooted in the occasion that it offers citizens an equal deliberation to create a better collective life.

The law professor at Purdy gets into one of the book’s most interesting chapters, a scathing critique of the way our Constitution works. He joins with many others in drawing attention to the functioning of the Senate and the electoral college in thwarting truly democratic results by over-representing citizens of small and rural states. But he reserves his strongest and most critical criticisms for the power of the Supreme Court, often arbitrarily, to do what the Constitution says.

They employ originality to permanently hook us to decisions made centuries ago. But he is almost critical of the “living constitutionalism” of liberals. The latter attempt to reflect current opinions and perspectives. But there is nothing democratic in giving so much power to the judges. In a democracy, the people, not the judges, should be the arbiters of the present will of the people.

Purdy responds that it should be far easier to amend our Constitution, and he goes a step further, suggesting that our basic governing structure should be kept to regular popular amendments. “A constitutional referendum every twenty-seven years,” he writes, “will mean that every generation of adults will live under a fundamental law that it ratified in its sovereign role.”

It’s hard to imagine this ever happening, and I think Purdy sums up the New Deal settlement in constitutional law—now being overturned by a right-wing court—that sought to protect individual rights, Whereas the selected branches were given wide leeway to enact social. and economic law. Nonetheless, he is correct that we have lost our constitutional imagination (reflected in the past, especially when the democratic amendments implemented after the Civil War have led to what historian Eric Foner has called a “second establishment”). We have largely given up because the rules for amending the document give less populous states the power to block any amendments.

Read |  The personality cult of Donald Trump and the erosion of American democracy

Those who will reject Purdy’s radical proposal will still have to deal with the crisis of representation that our Constitution creates for democracy. To look only at our presidential election system, a flip of nearly 32,000 votes in three states and one congressional district would have won a candidate in the Electoral College who lost the popular vote by more than 7 million ballots. That problem is not going away.

Purdy’s overall approach will undoubtedly seem idealistic to some readers and too progressive to others. But in a time of cynicism bordering on nihilism, his belief in the ability of his fellow citizens to undertake social reconstruction is refreshing. A democratic revival, he writes, “will be a reminder that history is not just something that happens to us or the cacophony of stories we tell about the mess we were born in; it is also something that we make.”

Utopianism has its problems. But resignation is far worse.

EJ Dion Jr. writes a twice-weekly column for The Washington Post. He is a professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His latest book with Miles Rapoport is “100% Democracy: The Case for Universal Voting,

Why Democracy Is Flawed, Terrible and Our Best Hope

A note to our readers

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Source link