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Post-Democracy 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0745633145
ISBN-10: 0745633145
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A brilliant short text."
The Guardian

"A powerful plea for a politics of the left in the twenty-first century. He is no advocate of the Third Way. For him the stark alternative is liberal democracy or egalitarian democracy, and he clearly opts for the latter. Those who disagree with his analysis or his conclusions will have to make their case, and will no doubt do so. Crouch’s book is sure to give rise to lively debate.’
Ralf Dahrendorf

"Colin Crouch has the great gift of bringing theory down to accessible earth. Social capital theory is applied to the policies needed for civil renewal. This thoughtful book is a culmination of all that we have been expecting-and more-from his Fabian pamphlets and Political Quarterly articles on the dilemmas of democracy in troubled times."
Professor Bernard Crick

From the Back Cover

Post-Democracy is a polemical work that goes beyond current complaints about the failings of our democracy and explores the deeper social and economic forces that account for the current malaise.


Colin Crouch argues that the decline of those social classes which had made possible an active and critical mass politics has combined with the rise of global capitalism to produce a self-referential political class more concerned with forging links with wealthy business interests than with pursuing political programmes which meet the concerns of ordinary people. He shows how, in some respects, politics at the dawn of the twenty-first century returns us to a world familiar well before the start of the twentieth, when politics was a game played among elites. However, Crouch maintains that the experience of the twentieth century remains salient and it reminds us of possibilities for the revival of politics.

This engaging book will prove challenging to all those who claim that advanced societies have reached a virtual best of all possible democratic worlds, and will be compelling reading for anyone interested in the shape of twenty-first-century politics.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (August 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745633145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745633145
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,673,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Henry J. Farrell on February 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to date it back to its original publication in Italian, this short book is now ten years old. I don't think it has had a big US readership, but it has been quite influential in the UK, and very influential indeed in continental Europe. Crouch asks what are the underlying structural conditions which explain why we've seen so much of the life-blood sucked out of democracy in the last few decades? He thinks that these have everything to do with the specific consequences of neo-liberalism. One part of his argument is the common claim that states find themselves constrained by the increased bargaining power of business. But he also points to more subtle problems. In particular, he argues that governments are losing their capacity to do things, as their functions become increasingly marketized. More and more state functions are put out to the private sector (sometimes under direct pressure from multilateral organizations). As this happens, governments lose their capacity to direct and coordinate, and increasingly become just another nexus in a set of anonymous chains of contracting and subcontracting. As the line between government and business becomes ever blurrier, politicians become ever more closely embroiled with business leaders, taking on and representing their interests. The political aspects of the state shrink to a hard and unaccountable core, surrounded by a variety of contracting relationships.

This does not lead to the complete abandonment of democratic forms. We do not live in non-democratic states, but in post-democratic state. As Crouch puts it, we are on the declining segment of the parabola, long after the apex was reached. Hence, we still have democratic forms - elections, parties and the like. However, they become increasingly disconnected from mass publics.
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i often wonder, "Where are today's great projects? We see China proceeding in great projects like high-speed rail, massive water projects, and building the "One Road, One Belt" commercial Silk Road corridor that will connect Xian with Kazakstan and eventually Moscow. Crouch shows us why our has lost its competence to do anything at all. As Michael Moore showed us, government has been hijacked by the big corporations.

Crouch shows how this hollowing out of democracy is proceeding apace in European countries just as it is in the U.S. Crouch follows the familiar narrative of our coming from an age in the 1800s in which the government was a game played by the ruling elite, through the achievements of the labor movement, to the 1960s and the highest levels of prosperity and highest standard of living in history, to our post-democratic times, in which we have the bare-bones of democracy but without active citizen participation. Crouch calls this development "the commercialization of citizenship."

Crouch is very good in describing how government itself has been demonized by the ruling elite. The large corporation has become the dominant institution of society and the model of competence and efficiency. This results not only in the disabling of governments ability to do things, especially big things, but also running government programs on the corporation model, with the emphasis on the bottom line instead of the delivery of high-standard services to the widest possible constituency. This robs government agents also of their confidence in their own competence to do things, making the government look like the village idiot.
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Crouch here provides a very clear and thorough, if brief, picture of the fate of democracy, with a focus on the UK. He emphasizes the domination of corporations, the collapse of the unions as important modes of public representation, and the problems arising from privatizing welfare state programs. This book provides a basis for delving into his very important but more challenging collection of essays, "The Strange Non-death of Neoliberalism".
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The text elaborates on the discussion delivered at London School of Economics last year. I think the content is nearly relevant to our current socioeconomic status.
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