History of liberalism Liberal democracy traces its origins—and its name—to the European 18th-century, also known as the Age of Enlightenment. At the time, the vast majority of European states were monarchieswith political power held either by the monarch or the aristocracy. The possibility of democracy had not been a seriously considered political theory since classical antiquity and the widely held belief was that democracies would be inherently unstable and chaotic in their policies due to the changing whims of the people.
Democratically elected governments were routinely flouting liberal principles, openly violating the rule of law, and depriving their citizens of basic rights and liberties. Today, many believe that we stand on the precipice of an existential crisis.
In a bracing new book, the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright even warns of a revival of fascism.
There is a growing consensus that American democracy itself is at risk. There is a danger within: Americans are becoming complacent about democracy, losing interest in their traditional ideals. Liberalism has failed, writes Patrick Deneen.
A spate of books, articles and opinion pieces talk about its demise, but their authors speak past each other or around in circles, because they are using different definitions of the term.
How can we have a proper discussion about liberal democracy when we are not speaking about the same thing? The problem concerns more than semantics. The confusion of terms leads to confused thinking. Their opponents easily exploit the verbal ambiguities.
For this we need to understand its history. One common mistake is to conflate liberalism with democracy. The two concepts are not synonyms. For most of their history, they have not even been compatible. Some have interpreted this to mean direct political participation by all male citizens.
Others have taken it to mean a representative system based on the suffrage of all male citizens. Either way, however, well into the 19th century, the majority of liberals were hostile to the very idea of democracy, which they associated with chaos and mob rule.
Indeed, it would not be wrong to say that liberalism was originally invented to contain democracy. Certainly, the founders of liberalism were no democrats. Benjamin Constant stood for strict property qualifications for both voting and officeholding. The French revolution proved to liberals like him that the public was utterly unprepared for political rights.
People were ignorant, irrational and prone to violence. The most democratic phase of the revolution had also been the most bloody.
New words were invented to name his pseudo-democratic regime. They form alliances with religious authorities to prop up their regimes.
They take their countries into useless wars to distract people from their treachery, while they enhance their own power, line their own pockets and enrich their friends. Worst of all, they corrupt their people by tricking them into participating in their lies. Alexis de Tocqueville also had deep misgivings about democracy.
Two additional French revolutions, one in and the other infollowed by another Napoleon, depressed him greatly. It proved once again that the masses were easy prey for demagogues and would-be dictators catering to their lowest instincts. Early liberals like Constant and Tocqueville spent much time thinking about how to counter the perils of democracy.
Limits had to be placed on the sovereignty of the people, the rule of law and individual rights guaranteed. But good laws would never be enough, since a popular strongman could easily pervert or simply ignore them.
The survival of liberal democracies required a politically educated citizenry. Constant travelled around France instructing French citizens about the principles of their constitution, their rights and their duties.
He published articles and delivered speeches for the same purpose. He fought valiantly for the freedom of the press. Across the world, democracy is in crisis.Liberal democracy is “closer to collapse than we may wish to believe”, writes Ed Luce of the Financial Times.
In a bracing new book, the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright even warns. Whether liberal democracy is an inherantly contradictory notion or not appears therefore to rest on how exactly democracy is defined. If it is accepted that, as in the US political system, democracy is a political process underpinned by a constitutional body of rights, then there is nothing contradictory about the notion of liberal democracy.
“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” – H.L. Mencken, Liberal Democracy is a phrase often used to describe Western democratic political systems, such as Australia, the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and other nations.
Clearly, understandings of the notion of democracy itself are crucial to the question of whether liberal democracy is a contradictory notion. Another crucial question is how the notion is used.
If used as a descriptive term, it would appear entirely valid- many political systems may reasonably be described as liberal democracies. “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” – H.L. Mencken, Liberal Democracy is a phrase often used to describe Western democratic political systems, such as Australia, the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and other nations.
Oct 30, · Understanding of liberal democracy - liberal democracy Understanding what it terms the definition of liberal democracy or liberal democracy is the internet definition notion of liberal democracy is liberal democracy (or constitutional democracy) is a political system that protects the constitutional rights .