84 • Democracy After Liberalism
commitments and ideals among otherwise' distinct and independent individuals; at the very least, it presupposes a shared commitment among individuals to the democratic process itself. Moreover, that traditional theorists of liberal democracy pay so little attention to the concerns raised by Socrates' foundering ship regarding the vulnerability of the populace to demagoguery and other forms of manipulation, suggests a confidence among the theorists in the intellectual powers of individuals, which is warranted only if an elaborate system of education is presupposed.
In short, traditional liberal theorists unwittingly appealed to the social conditions established by the regimes they sought to overthrow for the foundations of their liberalism. For as long as the residual social homogeneity prevailed and remained influential, liberal democracy succeeded as a political doctrine. However, with time the common ground established by the monarchs and aristocrats receded, and the foundations of comprehensive liberalism began to erode. Advances in technology led to increased communication, trade, and influence among diverse peoples; accordingly, the region of tacit agreement on political essentials within a particular society shrank, and the realm of explicit difference expanded. Hence, as our study has shown, the tradition of liberal philosophy exhibits a gradual but steady retreat from thick philosophical foundations.
In contemporary times, democratic states are marked not by shared commitments and common ground, but by distance, disagreement, and difference. Theorists of liberal democracy, hence, find themselves in the Rawlsian conundrum upon which this study has been focused: How can a liberal democratic society propose a philosophical account of its practices and institutions that is adequately robust to answer antidemocrats and sufficiently inclusive to win the assent of citizens who disagree about philosophical, moral, and theological essentials? In the absence of a philosophically robust account, liberal democrats find themselves unable to say why liberal democracy is more just than, and preferable to, mild oligarchy or benevolent dictatorship. Moreover, the lack of a philosophical account of liberal democracy causes the corresponding lack of a theory of citizenship, a reasoned account of what self-government and civic participation consist in, and why they are important. Liberals who take up the challenge of formulating the requisite philosophical accounts will confront the endemic tension in liberalism. Given that modern democratic states are marked \b~y a pervasive social pluralism, any robust theory of democracy WIll inevitably conflict with some reasonable comprehensive doctrines and favor others; any such theory will violate the liberal commitment to political neutrality.
Theorists of liberal democracy traditionally have tried to do with lit a theory of citizenship and civic participation. Again, in far as a shared
The Deliberative Turn in Democratic Theory • 85
sense of purpose and responsibility developed from other sources, such as the family, the community, the civic association, the public school, the local church, and the trade union, liberal democracy did not need a theory of citizenship. Moreover, the aggregative conception of democracy, focused as it is upon private preferences and individual strategizing, renders the very idea of citizenship superfluous to self-government. We now live at a time in which all of the aforementioned institutions, among many others, are in decline. Political participation and civic mindedness are also declining; meanwhile, public ignorance, citizen incompetence, and distrust of government are on the rise." As theorists of liberal democracy are caught in the dilemma between philosophical foundations and political neutrality, they are powerless to address the challenges to democracy that social pluralism involves. As Benjamin Barber has said, "Liberalism ... is far more suited to founding than to sustaining democracy" (1998b, 31).
The Deliberative Turn
Recently, antiliberal political theorists have sought to formulate the intellectual tools with which to rehabilitate American democracy. The principal step in this rehabilitation is the overcoming of the aggregative, adversarial conception of democracy. Drawing upon Robert Putnam's (1993) fascinating and influential study of emerging democracy in the southern regions of Italy and related work, these theorists have argued that, in the absence of complex cultural and civic networks of cooperation and engagement, what Putnam calls "social capital" (1993, 167), democracy simply does not work. The traditional view of the liberal democrats that democracy is essentially a kind of state, a collection of formal procedures and institutions, is false. Antiliberal democratic theorists have thus called for a rejection of liberalism's image of the independent, autonomous individual that harbors fixed preferences and a return to community, civil society, voluntarism, belonging, participation, and the virtues requisite to self-government."
The collectivist rhetoric of democratic antiliberalism has understandably generated suspicion and apprehension among liberals. The plea for a return to community values, civic virtue (SandeI1996, 25), and a common "moral voice" (Etzioni 1993, 12) evokes worries of oppression, majoritarianism, discrimination, and conformity. Certainly, many of the most morally horrendous episodes in human history have occurred with community support. As one liberal critic has put it, "The enforcement of liberal rights, not the absence of settled community, stands between the Moral Majority and the contemporary equivalent of witch hunting" (Gutmann 1 85, 132-133).