Decent Democratic Centralism

Political Theory 33 (4):518 - 546 (2005)
Are there any coherent and defensible alternatives to liberal democracy? The author examines the possibility that a reformed democratic centralism-the principle around which China's current polity is officially organized-might be legitimate, according to both an inside and an outside perspective. The inside perspective builds on contemporary Chinese political theory; the outside perspective critically deploys Rawls's notion ofa "decent society " as its standard. Along the way, the author pays particular attention to the kinds and degree of pluralism a decent society can countenance, and to the specific institutions in China that might enable the realization of a genuine and/or decent democratic centralism. The author argues that by considering both inside and outside perspectives, and the degrees to which they inter-penetrate and critically inform one another, we can engage in a global philosophy that neither pre-judges alternative political traditions nor falls prey to false conceptual barriers.
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