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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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PART II THE NEW SOCIAL LOGIC 57 CHAPTER 1 The New Pluralism One of the most pressing problems in social philosophy consists of understanding how to structure public life in a pluralist society. The defining characteristic of multicultural societies is not their unity but their dispersion. They resemble a kaleidoscope of human patterns, putting on a show that can be comical, interesting, or epic, but often also tragic. I would like to expound here upon this last aspect, since plurality is not always enriching, even if celebrating diversity has already become a ritual in itself. It often implies the existence of incompatible judgments leading to awkward compromises or to conflicts. Due to the plurality of characters, opinions and interests, the common judgment we reach always has a tragic limit (Cover 1986, 1629). Protagonists can, of course, adopt a perspective allowing them to take others’ reasons into account and to recognize the validity of opposing positions. But this moral requirement applies to finite human beings and takes shape in a contingent social background. A tragic theory of pluralism sets two limitations to our actions: on one hand it gives up conferring unity and coherence to all aspects of our lives, and on the other, it admits the existence of insurmountable opposi- tions. By doing this, it presents a tragic vision of political life and its possibilities. But by recognizing the inevitability of conflict, it protects us against future disappointments, puts us on guard against grandilo- quent unity and makes us aware...

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