Historical Social Research

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John Higley, Democratic Elitism and Western Political Thought [2009] [Abstract]

Many political thinkers have viewed democratic elitism as closing a democratic road they believe is or should be open-ended. Their view of democratic possibilities reflects the auspicious circumstances of Western societies during the past several centuries and especially since World War II. However, it involves a conflation of liberal and democratic values. I examine why and how this has occurred, and I argue that liberal and democratic values must be more clearly separated in today’s dangerous world. In step with Schumpeter, democracy must be regarded as a method or instrumental value that in some but by no means all circumstances promotes the ultimate liberal value of actively individualistic free people.