Liberal Democracy and its Critics examines the contribution of eleven contemporary political social theorists to understanding democracy today. The theorists are prominent in political and philosophical debates in the 1990s, for example between neo-liberalism (Hayek) and social liberalism (Rawls), and between liberalism and republicanism (Arendt), communitarianism (Taylor and Walzer), 'anti-political politics' (Havel) and feminism (Pateman and Young). The book also explores how the philosophical defence of universalism (Habermas) or critiques of it (Foucault and Rorty) impinge on assessments of liberal democracy.
The eleven theorists reflect varying approaches to key issues in democratic thought since 1945: liberal constitutionalism or popular sovereignty, elitism or participation and parliamentary or council democracy. Many also engage with more recent themes such as civil society, the politics of difference, deliberative democracy, and the nature of cosmopolitan democracy. Some focus on the justification of democracy, others make specific institutional proposals.
The chapters set the thinkers within their intellectual and political contexts and explore the relationship between their philosophical positions and explicit or implicit views on democracy. They will be of interest both to students of contemporary social thought and of democracy.
Contributors to the book include Margaret Canovan, April Carter, Don Fletcher, John Horton, Mark Kingwell, Chandran Kukathas, Martin Leet, Lois McNay, Barbara Sullivan, Katherine Welton and Jonathan Wolff.