The crisis of representation: the limits of liberal democracy in the global era




Bananno, Alessandro

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Journal of Rural Studies


In liberal thought, democracy is guaranteed by the unity of community and government. The community of citizens elects its government according to political preferences. The government rules over the community with powers which are limited by unalienable human, civil, and political rights. These assumptions have characterized Classical Liberalism, Revisionist Liberalism and contemporary Neo-liberal theories. However, the assumed unity of community and government becomes problematic in Global Post-Fordism. Recent research on the globalization of the economy and society has underscored the increasing inability of nation-states to exercise power over their communities which, in turn, limits the ability of communities to express their will at the nation-state level. The current phase of capitalism is characterized by socio-economic relations which transcend the jurisdictions of nation-states and local spaces. This paper addresses the issue of the fracture of the unity of community and government by introducing feature characteristics of Classical Liberalism, Revisionist Liberalism and Neo-liberalism. Moreover, it analyzes the contribution of the theory of Re#exive Modernization which represents a novel attempt to rethink democracy within the liberal tradition. The paper concludes that the inability of governments to control economic and non-economic environments creates a crisis of representation which implies serious limits to liberal democracy. This situation is particularly important for rural regions as their socio-economic development, and programs for its democratization have been historically based on the intervention of agencies of and control by the nation-state. c 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


Originally published in the Journal of Rural Studies. Elsevier Science holds the copyright


democracy, community, Post-Fordism, nation-state, socio-economic development


Bonanno, Alessandro. 2000."The crisis of representation: the limits of liberal democracy in the global era." Journal of Rural Studies, Volume 16(3), 305-323.