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The Demons of Liberal Democracy




The Demons of Liberal Democracy

Adrian Pabst

ISBN: 978-1-509-52844-8 April 2019 Polity 160 Pages


Liberals blame the global retreat of liberal democracy on globalisation and authoritarian leaders. Only liberalism, so they assume, can defend democratic rule against multinationals or populists at home and abroad. In this provocative book, Adrian Pabst contends that liberal democracy is illiberal and undemocratic – intolerant about the values of ordinary people while concentrating power and wealth in the hands of unaccountable elites.

Under the influence of contemporary liberalism, democracy is sliding into oligarchy, demagogy and anarchy. Liberals, far from defending open markets and free speech, promote monopolies such as the new tech giants that undermine competition and democratic debate. Liberal individualism has eroded the social bonds and civic duties on which democracy depends for trust and cooperation. To banish liberal democracy’s demons, Pabst proposes radical ideas for economic democracy, a politics of persuasion and a better balance of personal freedom with social solidarity.

This book’s defence of democratic politics against both liberals and populists will speak to all readers trying to understand our age of upheaval.

‘History has been up-ended. Western liberal democracy is in crisis. This book is a brilliant, concise diagnosis of this state of modern affairs. It is essential reading, whether you’re a political philosopher, practising politician or concerned citizen.’
Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham

‘Instead of avoiding the implications of the revolt against elites of our time, this book proposes a highly provocative return to recessive elements of the liberal tradition that emphasised the necessity of community and solidarity. Only if it confronts its demons, Adrian Pabst says, can democracy survive its moment of crisis.’
Samuel Moyn, Yale University

‘Hard-hitting, polemical at times, and makes a powerful case.’
Andrew Gamble, University of Sheffield