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Democratic Legitimacy: Impartiality, Reflexivity, Proximity

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Overview

It's a commonplace that citizens in Western democracies are disaffected with their political leaders and traditional democratic institutions. But in Democratic Legitimacy, Pierre Rosanvallon, one of today's leading political thinkers, argues that this crisis of confidence is partly a crisis of understanding. He makes the case that the sources of democratic legitimacy have shifted and multiplied over the past thirty years and that we need to comprehend and make better use of these new sources of legitimacy in order to strengthen our political self-belief and commitment to democracy.

Drawing on examples from France and the United States, Rosanvallon notes that there has been a major expansion of independent commissions, NGOs, regulatory authorities, and watchdogs in recent decades. At the same time, constitutional courts have become more willing and able to challenge legislatures. These institutional developments, which serve the democratic values of impartiality and reflexivity, have been accompanied by a new attentiveness to what Rosanvallon calls the value of proximity, as governing structures have sought to find new spaces for minorities, the particular, and the local. To improve our democracies, we need to use these new sources of legitimacy more effectively and we need to incorporate them into our accounts of democratic government.

An original contribution to the vigorous international debate about democratic authority and legitimacy, this promises to be one of Rosanvallon's most important books.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
This book is an illuminating analysis of the transformed problem of political legitimacy that exists in contemporary democracy. It should be read by anyone seriously interested in thinking through the dangers posed by the climate of political distrust that has become normal in democratic regimes. . . . Rosanvallon here undertakes a comprehensive, in-depth investigation of the problem of legitimacy. He provides a new framework and new vocabulary for analyzing the problem and hence proposing a way forward.
Survival
[T]his excellent book should stimulate the reflection of those who seek to better understand the evolution of democracy and its justifications. . . . Rosanvallon's quest for the sources of democratic legitimacy in an uncertain age opens up a fascinating dialogue between the past and present, highlighting how three key countries have struggled with concerns for liberty and the democratic idea.
From the Publisher
"This book is an illuminating analysis of the transformed problem of political legitimacy that exists in contemporary democracy. It should be read by anyone seriously interested in thinking through the dangers posed by the climate of political distrust that has become normal in democratic regimes. . . . Rosanvallon here undertakes a comprehensive, in-depth investigation of the problem of legitimacy. He provides a new framework and new vocabulary for analyzing the problem and hence proposing a way forward."Choice

"[T]his excellent book should stimulate the reflection of those who seek to better understand the evolution of democracy and its justifications. . . . Rosanvallon's quest for the sources of democratic legitimacy in an uncertain age opens up a fascinating dialogue between the past and present, highlighting how three key countries have struggled with concerns for liberty and the democratic idea."Survival

"[T]he book's main attraction: sharp, self-contained historical accounts of specific issues and ideas, where Rosanvallon's thinking is clearly at its best."—Paulina Ochoa Espejo, European Political Science

"An original contribution to the vigorous international debate about democratic authority and legitimacy, this promises to be one of Rosanvallon's most important books."World Book Industry

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691149486
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/25/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,420,559
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Pierre Rosanvallon is professor at the Collège de France and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His many books include "Counter- Democracy, The Demands of Liberty, Democracy Past and Future", and "The New Social Question" (Princeton).

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Decentering of Democracies 1

Part One: Dual Legitimacy 15
Chapter One: The Legitimacy of Establishment 17
Chapter Two: The Legitimacy of Identification with Generality 33
Chapter Three: The Great Transformation 60

Part Two: The Legitimacy of Impartiality 73
Chapter Four: Independent Authorities: History and Problems 75
Chapter Five: The Democracy of Impartiality 87
Chapter Six: Is Impartiality Politics? 104

Part Three: Reflexive Legitimacy 121
Chapter Seven: Reflexive Democracy 123
Chapter Eight: The Institutions of Reflexivity 137
Chapter Nine: On the Importance of Not Being Elected 154

Part Four: The Legitimacy of Proximity 169
Chapter Ten: Attention to Particularity 171
Chapter Eleven: The Politics of Presence 187
Chapter Twelve: Interactive Democracy 203
Conclusion: The Democracy of Appropriation 219

Index 227

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