80 • Democracy After Liberalism
project of providing a deep philosophical theory to ground a politics that attempts to eschew deep philosophical commitments, may be, as one critic has said, an "oxymoronic conundrum" (Barber 1998b, 3).
In response to the failure of the comprehensive project, noncomprehensive theories have targeted the Political Wisdom Principle. Specifically, the political liberal abstains from comment on the cognitivity claim (Rawls 1996, 128) and denies the knowability claim.9 That denial is implied by the fact of reasonable pluralism. If it is not the case that all rational roads lead to a single and specific moral doctrine, then it is the case that nobody can know which rational moral doctrines are true. If nobody can know which (or if any) moral doctrines are true, then nobody is politically wise in the sense the Guardianship Argument requires. The political liberal concludes that philosopher kings cannot exist because even a fully rational human cannot have the kind of knowledge Socrates envisions.
By contrast, the antifoundationalist liberal explicitly denies both parts of the Political Wisdom Principle. According to the antifoundationalist, political claims, like every other kind of claim, are not cognitive. As Rorty has put it, when "philosophy goes antifoundationalist ... the question, 'Is there any evidence for p?' gets replaced by the question, 'Is there any way of getting a consensus on what would count in favor of p?'" (1997, 155). Since normative political claims have no truth value, there is no political knowledge, and therefore, no political wisdom. Platonic kings cannot exist because the kind of knowledge they are supposed to have does not exist.
Liberal Democracy and Its Discontents
Despite variations in their logical details, liberal attempts to diffuse the Guardianship Argument exhibit the common strategy of divorcing politics from Socrates' concerns about truth, knowledge, and goodness. The kernel of Socrates' objection to democracy is that a democratic arrangement cannot give the appropriate degree of authority to knowledge and those who possess it. Liberals have promoted a vision of politics according to which, the best a state can do to promote the good life among its citizens is to leave substantive questions of the good life out of politics. The liberal state, therefore, seeks not to cultivate virtue or impose truth, but to establish and maintain the social conditions under which individuals can "take charge of their lives" (Rawls 1996, 189) and pursue their "own good in [their] own way" (Mill 1859, 17).
The liberal image of free and equal individuals, pursuing their own conceptions of the good, suggests a particular vision of democratic politic. While liberal individuals are busy pursuing their own goods in their own ways, business that is properly called "political" must be conducted: Laws
The Deliberative Turn in Democratic Theory • 81
must be enacted, policies must be instituted, resources must be allocated, and public decisions must be made. These decisions and policies will inevitably impact individual lives; and these effects will not always be consonant with the immediate interests of all.10 As the liberal has denied that politics must aim at the Platonic ideals of Wisdom, Goodness, and Justice, there is no political telos apart from the satisfaction of individual interests, understood strictly as preferences. Since preferences conflict, what is required is a political process that can fairly decide public policy. On the liberal view, then, democratic processes are essentially instruments by which the competing preferences of distinct, independent, and self-interested agents may be aggregated fairly. The paradigmatically political act, according to the liberal, is that of registering one's preferences in an official procedure where each individual counts for one, and no individual counts for more than one. Hence, Jane Mansbridge characterizes liberal democracy as "adversary democracy":
Voters pursue their individual interests by making demands on the political system in proportion to the intensity of their feelings. Politicians, also pursuing their own interests, adopt policies that buy them votes, thus ensuring accountability. In order to stay in office, politicians act like entrepreneurs and brokers, looking for formulas that satisfy as many, and alienate as few, interests as possible. From the interchange between self-interested voters and self-interested brokers, emerge decisions that come as close as possible to a balanced aggregation of individual interests. (1983, 17)
Jurgen Habermas has recently offered a similar description,
According to the 'liberal' or Lockean view, the democratic process accomplishes the task of programming the government in the interest of society where the government is represented as an apparatus of public administration, and society as a market-structured network of interactions among private persons. (1996, 21)
Habermas further states that, on the liberal view of democracy, political rights "such as voting rights and free speech" serve the purpose of providing citizens "the opportunity to assert their private interests in such a way that ... these interests are finally aggregated into a political will that makes an impact on the administration" (1996, 22).12 Iris Young has nicely summarized the liberallaggregative view as follows:
The aggregative model describes democratic processes of policy formation omething like this. Individuals in the polity have varying preferences about what they want government institutions to do.