In this major new work, Dominique Schnapper continues her investigation into changes in contemporary democracy. Although she concentrates on the French example, The Democratic Spirit of Law concerns all democratic societies.
Schnapper warns against the danger of corrupting the "principles," as defined by Montesquieu, on which democracy is based. If democracy becomes "extreme," all its founding principles risk being corrupted. Respect for institutions is necessary for freedom to be effective. Furthermore, if democrats cease to distinguish between facts and values, religion and politics, politics and the judiciary, knowledge and opinion, and knowledge and intuition, they will sink into absolute relativism or a nihilism that threatens the very values on which democratic society is based.
By pointing out the danger of corruption inherent in the democratic promise of freedom, equality, and happiness, the author provides intellectual weapons not only to understand, but also to defend democracy, the only system in history, despite its limits and failures, that has humanely organized human societies. Democracy's future depends on citizens' preservation of the founding spirit of the democratic order: recognition of others, and free, reasonable, and controlled criticism of legitimate institutions.
Preface by Mark Lilla
"Well-Regulated" Democracy versus "Extreme"
The Two Critiques
A Sociological Project
Risks of Deviation and "Corruption"
1 The Temptation of the Unlimited
From Autonomy to the Rejection of All Dependence
Autonomy and Independence
Autonomy and Collective Constraints
From Citizenship to Democracy of the Intimate
From Scientific Progress to the World Without Limits
The Illusion of Omnipotence
2 From Liberty to License
The Critical Relationship Toward Institutions
From Marriage to PACS and Back Again
The Child and the School: Between the Republic and Business
The Museum as a Cultural Enterprise
Representation in Crisis?
To Bypass or To Complement?
The Dream of Ultra-Democracy
Disintegration of Republican Transcendence
Return through Technology?
3 From Equality to Indistinction
Indistinction of Orders
Separation of the Political and of the Ethno-Religious
From Autonomy to Confusion?
The Rejection of Boundaries
Indistinction of Persons
The Utopia of Generalized Exchanges
The Pure and the Impure
Animal and Human
Indistinction of Values
From Relative Relativism to Absolute Relativism
4 Criticism of Criticism
The Achievements of the Republican Promise
Richer and Less Unequal
Society of Humiliation
Integration through Individualism?
Face Up to Failure
Less Poor and More Humiliated
Its Own Worst Enemy?