The Liberal Vision
and Other Essays on Democracy and Progress
By Stein Ringen
Gemas Studies in Social Analysis
Series Editors: Mohamed Cherkaoui, Peter Hamilton & Bryan S. Turner
November 2007, hardback, 224 pp.
These reflections are about modern capitalism. It is a waste of time to be for or against globalisation. New technology is a fact, the mobility of capital is a fact, the movement of jobs and people across borders is a fact. The political challenge is to master the use of reason in a world economy that is now unbelievably productive in the generation of wealth but also shockingly unfair in the distribution of economic power.
The liberal theory of freedom comes from another age when people mostly lived wretchedly and were oppressed and poor. We who live at the top of the new world must revise that theory. If we are to live as our own masters we must cultivate the skill of self-control in how we live together.
Solidarity is surprisingly elusive when the conditions are at their best. We think that the more wealth we have, the greater will be our solidarity, but this is not the case. On the world scene there is giving but no welfare state. Public policy is informed by the need to contain poverty but with limited vision about how to eradicate it.
Democracy rests on an idea of equality, that everyone counts the same. But capitalism breeds inequality. The transgression of economic power into the domain of democratic politics has become so great that the people’s democracy is being destroyed before our very eyes.
Stein Ringen’s book is the product of a battle to restore the importance of simplicity, of realism and of good sense in the study of democracy [and] outlines many topics that I believe are essential to the analysis and direction of political life. — From the foreword by Raymond Boudon, Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, Paris
FOREWORD: What Makes Democracy Good
PART I: Reason
CHAPTER I.1: The Liberal Vision
CHAPTER I.2: Liberty--Isaiah Berlin
CHAPTER I.3: Rationality--Raymond Boudon
CHAPTER I.4: The Enigma of Freedom
PART II: Solidarity
CHAPTER II.1: The Population Crisis
CHAPTER II.2: Pension Reform
CHAPTER II.3: The European Social Model
CHAPTER II.4: Social Policy and Development
CHAPTER II.5: The Eradication of Poverty
CHAPTER II.6: A Note on Giving
CHAPTER II.7: How Unequal Are We?
PART III: Democracy
CHAPTER III.1: The Legacy--Robert A. Dahl
CHAPTER III.2: How to Define Democracy
CHAPTER III.3: How to Make Children Citizens
CHAPTER III.4: How to be Democratic in Europe
CHAPTER III.5: How Good a Democracy is America?
CHAPTER III.6: How to Repair Democracy in Britain
CHAPTER III.7: How to Pay for Politics