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Defending Politics Why Democracy Matters in the Twenty-First Century

ISBN: 9780199669042 | 019966904X
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Pub. Date: 9/1/2013

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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.


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