Liberal democracy has been an impressively successful model of political order in an era that was characterised by economic growth and resource abundance. But how will it fare in the 21st century, when the pressing challenges of climate change, resource scarcity and environmental degradation require a comprehensive transformation of industrial societies? Does it have the institutional capacity to facilitate the necessary processes of radical societal change? Or is it structurally tied to precisely that type of socioeconomic structure which it needs to overcome? In other words: can liberal democracy be opened up for alternative models of societal development or is it locked onto a trajectory that cannot be changed from within? Finding answers to these questions is arguably among the most important tasks for democratic theorists today. In this book, Daniel Hausknost provides an analytic framework for their systematic exploration. Probing into the functional core of liberal democracy by analysing the mechanisms stabilising it and sustaining popular allegiance, he carefully examines the role these mechanisms play in structuring political agency, thereby enabling certain forms of change and disabling others. The resulting heuristic model of an ‘agentic regime’ of liberal democracy allows Hausknost to show the extent to which liberal democracies are locked into a self-referential mode of change that is unable to connect in a meaningful way to ‘external’ realities like climate change and socio-ecological boundaries. Consequently, he explores how the transformative capacities of liberal democracy might be enhanced and the ‘agentic deadlock’ broken. Liberal Democracy and the Problem of Political Agency presents the first step toward a transformative model of democracy.
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