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The Transformation of Politics

Governing in the Age of Complex Societies


Daniel Innerarity

Nowadays, politics is only one voice among many in the concert of social self-organization. Its function is to articulate the differentiated systems of our societies: it encourages their self-restraint, while at the same time restraining itself.
Such a conception obviously threatens the primacy of the nation-state. While it is not necessarily disappearing, it must nevertheless cease to be thought of as a dominant principle of organization, and must assume its place in a system of regulation that proceeds on several levels. Distant from the anarchist or Marxist theories that herald the end of the state as it is from libertarian theories of the minimal state, the book illustrates that it is possible in the contemporary period to go beyond the alternatives of dirigisme and neoliberal spontaneity.
However, such a transformation can only prove effective through two conditions: we must first reject the enduring opposition between Right and Left, and second, we must invent an anti-state social democracy that is able in its own right to glean the most it can out of the liberal legacy.
This book combines philosophical technicality, clarity and elegance of writing in an attempt to provide politics with meaning again, particularly in an era where discourse about its powerlessness abounds.


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INTRODUCTION. Politics Otherwise 11


11 INTRODUCTION Politics Otherwise Dissatisfaction with politics is nothing new, but its causes have va- ried from one time to another. Our common history could be written by outlining the changing motives for this dissatisfaction. The measly credit granted to politicians by their citizens has hardly changed, even if the causes of their scorn have varied quite a bit. If we were to take inventory of the general protest currently circulating, we might be surprised to find out that its content has changed drastically in recent years. Just a little while ago, we used to condemn the abuse of power, but today we deplore the powerlessness of the supposedly powerful. This malaise does not stem from the all-powerful heads of state, but is rather caused by powerless politicians that cannot manage to clarify their ideas, and who recite the same old conventional speech on a drably lit stage. The current cause for discrediting politics is not authoritarianism but rather the distance that lies between what is done and what ought to be done, the gap between words and actions, and the hasty conclusion that it is impossible to do otherwise. The most damaging factor in politics can be located in its confusion and powerlessness. Quite simply, we could say that politics has never been so powerless. It is also worrisome to note that its ability to transform society has never been so weak, if we were to measure it by its own ambition and by the role we assign to...

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