Enchanting social democracy: The resilience of a belief system

Critical Review 23 (4):475-494 (2011)
Abstract Marcel Gauchet's theory of democracy focuses on the secularization of Western societies and the emergence of ?autonomy? in them?Weber's ?disenchantment of the world.? The nineteenth-century liberalism that resulted failed to generate a sense of collective purpose that could fill the gap left by the retreat of religion. Totalitarian ideologies achieved this by harnessing the passions unleashed by World War I, but at the cost of radicalization. Conversely, the (unexpected and lasting) post-1945 ?social state? set the groundwork for modern individualism and established new legitimacy for the regulatory and protective nation-state, conceptually bonded directly with its voter-citizens. Democracy is thus impossible to disentangle from social democracy?regardless of its actual effectiveness. If Gauchet is right, the left's embrace of ?voice? over ?exit? mixes a deep insight with flawed prescriptions, as it overlooks the national nature of the experience of citizenship, whereas classical liberals favoring the ?exit? option risk undermining the core of the democratic compact
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