Relections on the Paradox

Point 1 | The lexicon of the liberal democracy is insufficient to appeal to all people in all contexts. The attraction to liberal democracy is largely dependant upon a multitude of factors, but it is impossible to identify any universal core principle that would require people to adopt a new liberal democratic form of organizing. The call for free speech cannot appeal to every citizen in every situation. The assumption among many in the West is that the only way to end war, oppression and the like is for all nation states to adopt the liberal democratic model and eschew their own “backwards” ways (pp. 64-65).

Point 2 | Would increased “popular participation” in governance necessarily yield more communication or logical conclusions and policy? Does the presence of more voices in the process improve the quality of the resulting leadership? It seems to me that the inclusion of more voices would only introduce more varied feelings and reduce the likelihood of a logical conclusion being reached. Additionally, more participants would likely bring even greater partisan sentiment and ideas, thus further deteriorating the strength of “the people” (pp. 84).

Point 3 | The issue, time and time again, returns to the matter of who enjoys legitimacy within the liberal democratic framework. Whether one subscribes to the Rawlsian or Habermansian position, the fact remains, or appears to remain, that certain members of society are unable to access the discourse described. Whenever we talk about the “free public reasoning among equals” this cannot mean all parties, interests or individuals can or will be heard. Infants will certainly be governed be decisions made by these groups of equals, but would anyone advocate that infants should be directly included in the “speech acts” or be able to exercise “the right to initiate reflexive arguments”? (pp. 86-87)

Point 4 | It seems that the author suggests it is erroneous to consider people as wholly independent from society but also offers the impression that the individual cannot have free agency unless the prevailing social structures permit (pp. 95).

Point 5 | The concept of the adversarial rather than the ideological foe is a valuable one to consider. This conceptualization rehumanizes the “other” or “them” and places both parties within a context of potential agreement and commonality. Assuming individuals do share some kind of shared belief in the value of liberal democracy, there should, ostensibly, be a possibility for agreement and some degree of mutual respect. The difficulty in executing such a plan is multidimensional: the identity politics so deeply entrenched in present society and the shielding of minds from legitimate discussion prevents genuine exchange from taking place in all but the rarest of occasions. The promotion of antagonism and its masking as legitimate discourse has, in many respects, turned us into a nation of enemies even though we don’t usually know why “they” are to be feared and defeated (pp. 102).

Point 6 | There is no strength in liberal democracy when there is only the appearance of dissent in public venues and during elections. The two-party system in the United States has largely deprived the idea of “opposition” of all meaning. There is only the illusion of agonism as the system requires only a modest level of discussion to move the machine forward. There is no space for coalitions or blocs as the allegiance to party is so powerful that no alternative political voice can be heard. There is no need for serious discussion or debate because there is little to no chance of minds being changed or positions being compromised. The presence of a potent third-party would offer that much additional incentive for proper discourse and debate as there would be a need to bring those representatives into the process (pp. 113).

Mouffe, Chantal. The Democracy Paradox. Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2009. Print.



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