Good Government: Democracy beyond Elections

Good Government: Democracy beyond Elections


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Few would disagree that Western democracies are experiencing a crisis of representation. In the United States, gerrymandering and concentrated political geographies have placed the Congress and state legislatures in a stranglehold that is often at odds with public opinion. Campaign financing ensures that only the affluent have voice in legislation. Europeans, meanwhile, increasingly see the European Union as an anti-democratic body whose “diktats” have no basis in popular rule. The response, however, has not been an effective pursuit of better representation. In Good Government, Pierre Rosanvallon examines the long history of the alternative to which the public has gravitated: the empowered executive.

Rosanvallon argues that, faced with everyday ineptitude in governance, people become attracted to strong leaders and bold executive action. If these fail, they too often want even stronger personal leadership. Whereas nineteenth-century liberals and reformers longed for parliamentary sovereignty, nowadays few contest the “imperial presidency.” Rosanvallon traces this history from the Weimar Republic to Charles De Gaulle’s “exceptional” presidency to the Bush-Cheney concentration of executive power.

Europeans rebelling against the technocratic EU and Americans fed up with the “administrative state” have turned to charismatic figures, from Donald Trump to Viktor Orbán, who tout personal strength as their greatest asset. This is not just a right-wing phenomenon, though, as liberal contentment with Obama’s drone war demonstrates. Rosanvallon makes clear that contemporary “presidentialism” may reflect the particular concerns of the moment, but its many precursors demonstrate that democracy has always struggled with tension between popular government and concentrated authority.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674979437
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/09/2018
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Pierre Rosanvallon is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History of Politics at the Collège de

Table of Contents

Introduction: From One Democracy to Another 1

I Executive Power

1 Consecration of the Law and Demotion of the Executive 23

2 The Cult of Impersonality and Its Metamorphoses 32

3 The Age of Rehabilitation 45

4 Two Temptations 59

II The Presidentialization of Democracies

5 The Pioneering Experiments: 1848 and Weimar 75

6 From Gaullist Exception to Standard Model 91

7 Unavoidable and Unsatisfactory 104

8 Limiting Illiberalism 114

III A Democracy of Appropriation

9 The Governed and Their Governors 127

10 Legibility 146

11 Responsibility 172

12 Responsiveness 190

IV A Democracy of Trust

13 The Good Ruler in Historical Perspective 209

14 Truthfulness 224

15 Integrity 243

Conclusion: The Second Democratic Revolution 261

Notes 271

Index 329

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