Defending Politics: Why Democracy Matters in the Twenty-First Century
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Citizens around the world have become distrustful of politicians, skeptical about democratic institutions, and disillusioned about the capacity of democratic politics to resolve pressing social concerns. Many feel as if something has gone seriously wrong with democracy. Those sentiments are especially high in the U.S. as the 2012 election draws closer. In 2008, President Barack Obama ran--and won--on a promise of hope and change for a better country. Four years later, that dream for hope and change seems to be waning by the minute. Instead, disillusionment grows with the Obama adminstration's achievements, or depending where you fall on the spectrum, its lack thereof.
Defending Politics meets this contemporary pessimism about the political process head on. In doing so, it aims to cultivate a shift from the negativity that appears to dominate public life towards a more buoyant and engaged "politics of optimism." Matthew Flinders makes an unfashionable but incredibly important argument of utmost simplicity: democratic politics delivers far more than most members of the public appear to acknowledge and understand. If more and more people are disappointed with what modern democratic politics delivers, is it possible that the fault lies with those who demand too much, fail to acknowledge the essence of democratic engagement, and ignore the complexities of governing in the twentieth century? Is it possible that the public in many advanced liberal democracies have become "democratically decadent," that they take what democratic politics delivers for granted? Would politics appear in a better light if we all spent less time emphasizing our individual rights and more time reflecting on our responsibilities to society and future generations?
Democratic politics remains "a great and civilizing human activity...something to be valued almost as a pearl beyond price," Bernard Crick stressed in his classic In Defense of Politics fifty years ago. By returning to and updating Crick's arguments, this book provides an honest account of why democratic politics matters and why we need to reject the arguments of those who would turn their backs on "mere politics" in favor of more authoritarian, populist or technocratic forms of governing.
address above You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose the same condition on any acquirer British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Library of Congress Control Number: 2011942655 Typeset by SPI Publisher Services, Pondicherry, India Printed in Great Britain on acid-free paper by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc ISBN 978–0–19–964442–1 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 Politicians seldom if ever get [into
afflicted by the condition and around a million people commit suicide each year). The first decade of the twenty-first century has therefore been marked (or even scarred) by a global bout of self-reflection on the relationship between politics, the market, and how modern societies interpret ‘success’ and ‘value’. This is reflected in a flurry of interest in the ‘new science of happiness’, in books like Tim Kasser’s The High Price of Materialism (2003), Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice
the middle of the nineteenth century. Paul Ehrlich returned to this argument in The Population Bomb (1968) to predict famine in the 1970s and 1980s. Scientific and technological developments, however, averted crisis as the development of high-yielding varieties of cereals and grain alongside the intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers allowed food production to keep pace with population growth. Whether food production will be able to keep pace with demand when faced with an increase in oil
together resonates with Bauman’s emphasis on liquidity and also Robert Putman’s work on the declining levels of social capital. If the only social cohesion offered by faux democracy is little more than superficial consumerism, there is little wonder that politics has become ephemeral and tenuous to so many. Chasing happiness through shopping as a consumer-citizen in a marketplace democracy may reflect the ‘triumph’ of liberal democracy but it is ultimately unsatisfying both individually and
that what he does is morally indefensible’. Although I cannot compete with the power or wisdom of this sentence, I can draw strength from it to conclude that if a key indicator of the health of a democracy is the state of its journalism and the standard of its media, I cannot help but feel we are in trouble. There may well be a problem of integrity in modern politics but I have no doubt there is an even bigger problem of integrity within the modern media. Don’t let the media fool you into