Inequality and the Labyrinths of Democracy

Inequality and the Labyrinths of Democracy

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A global panorama of liberal democracies from a renowned social theorist.

Classical liberalism regarded universal suffrage as a mortal threat to property. So what explains the advent of liberal democracy, and how stable today is the marriage between representative government and the continued rule of capital?

Across every continent, people think inequality is a ‘very big problem’. Even the Davos Economic Forum and the OECD say they are worried. And yet capitalist states don’t respond. How has democracy been transformed from a popular demand for social justice into a professional power game?

To dispel our worsening political malaise, Göran Therborn argues, requires a ‘disruptive democracy’ of radical social movements, such as the climate strike. Inequality and the Labyrinths of Democracy opens with a major new essay mapping the social fractures of the present era. There is also a compact historical survey of worldwide patterns of democratization and a landmark analysis of the OECD economies, ‘The Rule of Capital and the Rise of Democracy’, originally published in New Left Review and collected here in book form for the first time.

Reviews

  • At a time when historians and economists tend to retire behind the barricades of their increasingly specialized professions, answering the big comparative questions about the pathways into and out of modernity, the global processes of inequality and the forces of possible change have been largely left to the sociologists. In my view, Göran Therborn, has made more essential contributions in these fields than anyone else, by a combination of analytical lucidity, common sense and an extraordinary command of international comparative data.

    Eric Hobsbawm, author of The Age of Extremes
  • A tour de force. Therborn explores the complex relationship between capitalism and democracy with great originality and insight

    Colin Crouch, author of Post-Democracy After the Crises
  • How much inequality can democracy withstand before it collapses? Göran Therborn addresses this fundamental question and gives us cause to hope for a more egalitarian future

    Donatella della Porta, author of Where Did the Revolution Go?