Rowman and Littlefield International

The Troubles with Democracy

By Jeff Noonan

2 Reviews

Providing a new philosophical foundation for thinking about old problems such as class inequality, this concise and accessible book explores the concept of and problems associated with democracy. Ideal for students in politics and philosophy, the book informs new structural and institutional responses to these problems.

Ebook ISBN: 9781786604293 Release date: Jan 2019
£21.95 €29.95 $30.95
Hardback ISBN: 9781786604279 Release date: Jan 2019
£70.00 €98.00 $100.00
Paperback ISBN: 9781786604286 Release date: Jan 2019
£22.95 €32.95 $32.95

Series: Off the Fence: Morality, Politics and Society

Pages: 202


This book sets out the most influential theories of democracy (liberal-egalitarian, deliberative, and cosmopolitan) and argues that they fail to adequately comprehend the cause of politically meaningful inequality on the one hand and the security state on the other. The private and exclusive control of that which all need to survive, realize, and enjoy life, and their exploitation to increase the wealth of a small mostly white and male ruling class is the cause of both growing inequality and the instability and political violence that legitimates the growth of the security state.

Jeff Noonan contends that the inequality and increasingly totalitarian practice of current systems of democracy proves that democratic ideals cannot be fully realized in existing institutions. These institutions are bound up with an economic system based upon private and exclusive control of the resources and wealth everyone needs in order to enjoy a meaningful life as socially self-conscious agents. However, this fact does not mean that democratic values are wrong, only that their realization demands a different set of social structures and institutions. Noonan goes on to explore alternative sets of individual motivations, goals, and values from those that define liberal-capitalism.

Introduction: Democracy Today

Chapter One: Democracy and Self-Determination

Chapter Two: Liberalism and Democracy

Chapter Three: The Real Contradiction Between Inequality and Democracy

Chapter Four: Right-Wing Populism as a Threat to Democracy

Chapter Five: Radical Democracy: Agonistic Theory and Horizontalist Practice

Chapter Six: Shared Life-Interests and Democratic Self-Determination

Further Reading


Jeff Noonan is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Windsor. He is the author of Critical Humanism and the Politics of Difference (2003), Democratic Society and Human Needs (2006), and Materialist Ethics and Life-Value (2012), and more than 50 peer reviewed articles and book chapters.

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2 Reviews

The Troubles with Democracy is synoptic and wide-ranging in its command of the relevant research, deep-structurally original in the literature in seeking a shared life capacity ground of democracy's contested meaning, and in all a lucid bellwether for contemporary democratic studies.

John McMurtry, Professor of Philosophy, University of Guelph

Jeff Noonan’s rearticulation of democratic politics away from political abstraction and systems description, and towards it being embedded in social life values and resources, provides a convincingly critical discussion of the current malaise of ‘liberal’ democracies. Where Noonan is most valuable is in providing a cogent, clear and critical engagement with the idea of democracy that keeps human freedoms and their material sustenance at the core of his political analysis. He both lays bare the failings of ‘liberal’ democracies and specifies the transformative agendas required to underpin democracy that is participative, respectful of difference and intolerant to structural inequalities, and genuinely delivers democracy in its enabling social context. A persuasive, eloquent and highly readable contribution towards democratic solidarity and renewal.

Paul Reynolds, Reader in Sociology and Social Philosophy, Edge Hill University

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