Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy / Edition 2

Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy / Edition 2

by Stephen Holmes, David S. Holmes
     
 

In this collection of essays on the core values of liberalism, Stephen Holmes - nationally noted for his scathing reviews of books by liberalism's opponents - challenges commonly held assumptions about liberal theory. By placing it into its original historical context, Passions and Constraint presents an interconnected argument meant to change fundamentally the way we… See more details below

Overview

In this collection of essays on the core values of liberalism, Stephen Holmes - nationally noted for his scathing reviews of books by liberalism's opponents - challenges commonly held assumptions about liberal theory. By placing it into its original historical context, Passions and Constraint presents an interconnected argument meant to change fundamentally the way we conceive of liberalism. According to Holmes, three elements of classical liberal theory are commonly used to attack contemporary liberalism as antagonistic to democracy and the welfare state: constitutional constraints on majority rule, the identification of individual freedom with an absence of government involvement, and a strong emphasis on the principle of self-interest. Through insightful essays on Hobbes's analysis of the English Civil War, Bodin's writings on the strategic benefits of limited government, and Mill's views on science and politics, Holmes convincingly shows that liberalism's basic principles provide, to the contrary, a plausible foundation for the development of democratic, regulatory, and redistributionist politics in the modern era. Holmes argues that the aspirations of liberal democracy - including individual liberty, the equal dignity of citizens, and a tolerance for diversity - are best understood in relation to two central themes of classical liberal theory: the psychological motivations of individuals and the necessary constraints on individual passions provided by robust institutions. Paradoxically, Holmes argues, such institutional restraints serve to enable, rather than limit or dilute, effective democracy. In explorations of subjects ranging from self-interest to majoritarianism to "gag rules," Holmes shows that limited government can be more powerful than unlimited government - indeed, that liberalism is one of the most effective philosophies of state building ever contrived. By restricting the arbitrary powers of government officials, Holmes states, a liberal cons

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226349688
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
06/28/1995
Edition description:
1
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.27(h) x 1.13(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
Introduction1
1The Liberal Idea13
2The Secret History of Self-Interest42
3Hobbes's Irrational Man69
4The Constitution of Sovereignty in Jean Bodin100
5Precommitment and the Paradox of Democracy134
6The Positive Constitutionalism of John Stuart Mill178
7Gag Rules or the Politics of Omission202
8Welfare and the Liberal Conscience236
Conclusion267
Notes275
Index323

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