Democracy Tamed: French Liberalism and the Politics of Suffrage (Hardcover)

Democracy Tamed: French Liberalism and the Politics of Suffrage By Gianna Englert Cover Image
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Does good democratic government require intelligent, moral, and productive citizens? Can our political institutions educate the kind of citizens we wish or need to have? With recent arguments "against democracy" and fears about the rise of populism, there is growing scepticism about whether liberalism and democracy can continue to survive together. Some even question whether democracy is worth saving.

In Democracy Tamed, Gianna Englert argues that the dilemmas facing liberal democracy are not unique to our present moment, but have existed since the birth of liberal political thought in nineteenth-century France. Combining political theory and intellectual history, Englert shows how nineteenth-century French liberals championed the idea of "political capacity" as an alternative to democratic political rights and argued that voting rights should be limited to capable citizens who would preserve free, stable institutions against revolutionary passions and democratic demands. Liberals also redefined democracy itself, from its ancient meaning as political rule by the people to something that, counterintuitively, demanded the guidance of a capable few rather than the rule of all.

Understandably, scholarly treatments of political capacity have criticized the idea as exclusionary and potentially dangerous. Englert argues instead that political capacity was a flexible standard that developed alongside a changing society and economy, allowing liberals to embrace democracy without abandoning their first principles. She reveals a forgotten, uncharted path of liberalism in France that remained open to political democracy while aiming to foster citizen capacity. Overall, Democracy Tamed tells the story of how the earliest liberals deployed their notion of the "new democracy" to resist universal suffrage. But it also reveals how later liberals would appropriate their predecessors' antidemocratic arguments to safeguard liberal democracies as we have come to know them.

About the Author

Gianna Englert is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southern Methodist University. Her work focuses on the history of liberalism, citizenship, suffrage, and political economy.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780197635315
ISBN-10: 0197635318
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: May 7th, 2024
Pages: 224
Language: English