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Post-democracy (Themes for the 21st Century Series) Paperback – 23 Jun 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press; 1 edition (23 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745633153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745633152
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.3 x 19.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 251,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"A brilliant short text, among the most penetrating analyses of the modern condition I have read."
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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The early twenty-first century sees democracy at a highly paradoxical moment. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback
A short, brilliant and original polemic about our times, our politics and our society!

Bascially Crouch argues that we are witnessing a shift towards post-democracy where the political, corporate and media elites are colluding in creating a new establishment which replaces the old one and has marginalised the conventional democratic structures such as Parliament and political parties.

Crouch underlines that we are in uncharted waters and that politics and power are changing as a new elite attempts to browbeat the rest of us into accepting their worldview: that their is no alternative to globalisation and the market, that competition and free trade are best, etc. The first step in opposing this agenda is in understanding its implications and Crouch does this in a superb way. A must read book.
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Well evidenced book about the influence of business on government and the substantial erosion of western democracies.
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Format: Paperback
The post democracy is the opposite to the open society by Karl Popper. He understands a weak state, big companies and the industry lobby as the post democracy world. He understands under democracy a welfare state of the working class. The democracy is older as the concept and I think the real democracy is more open to different forms as he thinks. It is not the left wing thinking alone. Most of the left wing parties behave like he the right wing parties what he criticizes. Most people do not go to the elections and organize in local initiatives. They have a good democratic understanding and it is not included in his view. Why be so narrow minded? You must see that the society is. It is divided and falls in little fractions. Collect them together and gives vote a change. The danger is that the people do not go to the polls.
The concept of post democracy is about the new American election battle. It is based on TV duels and big promoting the poll. I thing in Europe, we will behave differently. Some of these concepts are in the European polls as well, but not so concentrated. He starts with the view of the people turns to the influences of the big corporations, the new role of the parties and what follows of that triangle. The neo liberalism is the enemy in his view and guilty of everything. If the people like it. Why not? You can not chose your people. In the democracy you must deal with the people and the institution you have. You can change it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9404bc30) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93f45078) out of 5 stars A brilliant little book on the shape of modern politics 11 Feb. 2013
By Henry J. Farrell - Published on
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. Politicians and parties simply don't need public support any more in the way that they used to. A little bit of volunteerism is still useful - even artificial entities such as Berlusconi's Forza Italia! eventually acquired local branches. But it doesn't have much connection to policy, which is made in a circuit between business and lobbyists. This results in corrupt relationships and regular scandals, which further devalue conventional politics, and paradoxically render accountability more difficult, not less

Crouch's analysis has some important implications. First - he suggests that this is a perverse outcome for the ideology of neo-liberals, which claimed that marketized relationships would address the problems identified by public choice scholars. But what we have seen is not an expansion of free markets, but instead increased oligopolistic concentration, combined with an ever-larger set of ambiguous relationships in which government and business interests are impossible to distinguish from each other. Crouch argues that Hayek never solved the problem of politics - a Hayekian order is unsustainable because businesses can do better from playing with the rules of the game than from engaging in competition. An implication of Crouch's arguments is that the only way that neo-liberalism will work is in a confined system, where there are clear demarcations between politics and markets, and specifically an emphatic recognition of an inviolable realm of politics where the public good, rather than the pursuit of private benefits dominates. How to get there from where we are is less obvious. The old system worked because we had a class which recognized its common interests and was prepared to act on them. We do not have any equivalent today.

There are bits of the book that are outdated. There's little discussion of the Internet. The world after the economic crisis is a different one than the one that Crouch describes (although, as he discusses in his more recent book on the strange non-death of neo-liberalism, not nearly as different as as one might have hoped). But its main lessons and arguments are entirely relevant today. People who like Chris Hayes's "Rise of the Elites," but want to read something with a broader historical, cross-national and sociological sweep than Chris is able to give in a book aimed at a more general audience will find it invaluable.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x947b8e40) out of 5 stars accessible overview of neoliberal democracy 11 Feb. 2013
By Joel D. Wolfe - Published on
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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".
HASH(0x96344330) out of 5 stars The Hollowing Out of Democracy 9 Sept. 2015
By William H. DuBay - Published on
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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.

In the last chapter on remedies, Crouch recommends more active participation of citizens in politics, especially in motivating their private causes and movements to become more involved. The lobbies are here to stay and they are a major force that citizens can use in governmental reform. It is not enough any more to just give to private causes and charities, but to urge them to use more political strategies.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94ae97bc) out of 5 stars I heard Colin Crouch via podcast 3 May 2013
By A. Ramsey - Published on
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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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