Defending Politics by Matthew Flinders
Why Democracy Matters in the 21st Century

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If the twentieth century witnessed the triumph of democracy then something appears to have gone seriously wrong. Citizens around the world have become distrustful of politicians, sceptical about democratic institutions, and disillusioned about the capacity of democratic politics to resolve pressing social concerns. This shift in global attitudes has been explored in a vast body of writing that examines the existence of 'disaffected democrats' and 'democratic deficits'.
Defending Politics meets this contemporary pessimism about the political process head on. In doing so, it aims to cultivate a shift from the bland and fatalistic 'politics of pessimism' that appears to dominate public life towards a more buoyant and engaged 'politics of optimism'.

Matthew Flinders makes a highly unfashionable but incredibly important argument of almost primitive simplicity: democratic politics delivers far more than most members of the public appear to acknowledge and understand. If more and more people are disappointed with what modern democratic politics delivers then is it possible that the fault lies with those who demand too much, fail to acknowledge the essence of democratic engagement and ignore the complexities of governing in the twentieth
century rather than with democratic politics itself? Is it possible that the public in many advanced liberal democracies have become 'democratically decadent' in the sense that they take what democratic politics delivers for granted? Would politics be interpreted as failing a little less if we all spent a
little less time emphasising our individual rights and a little more time reflecting on our responsibilities to society and future generations?

Democratic politics remains 'a great and civilizing human activity... something to be valued almost as a pearl beyond price in the history of the human condition', as Bernard Crick stressed in his classic In Defence of Politics fifty years ago. But it is also a far more fragile system of governing than many people appear to realize. By returning to and updating Crick's arguments, this book provides an honest account of why democratic politics matters and why we need to reject the
arguments of those who would turn their backs on 'mere politics' in favour of more authoritarian, populist or technocratic forms of governing. In rejecting fashionable fears about the 'end of politics' and daring to suggest that the public, the media, pressure groups, academics and politicians are all part of the
problem as well as part of the cure, this book provides a fresh, provocative, and above all optimistic view of the achievements and future potential of democratic politics.

About Matthew Flinders

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Published April 26, 2012 by OUP Oxford. 221 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Defending Politics


“A stable democracy must impose some form of limits on public engagement in politics and resist the insatiable growth of public demands,” and therefore it can’t “satisfy every person all of the time because it lacks the resources.” Another flaw of democratic politics is that it (seemingly intenti...

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London School of Economics

Against such alleged cynicism, disengagement and depoliticization, he proposes a more optimistic and realistic version of politics, which emphasises the relevance of politics to our daily lives, but which also stresses the limitations of what politics and politicians can realistically deliver.

Aug 07 2012 | Read Full Review of Defending Politics:Why Democr...

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