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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press


A History of Ideas

What is democracy? Is it the movement toward united self-government in which equality is our highest value? Or is it about preserving the freedom of individuals? In Democracy: A History of Ideas, Boris DeWiel argues that neither of these popular definitions is correct. Inspired by Isaiah Berlin, he describes democracy as a contest of values. Equality and liberty, like justice and fairness, are among our ultimate ideals, but no single value is supreme. Because they conflict with each other, democracy is an endless battle of true yet contrary ideals.

208 pages

Table of Contents


1 Democracy and Value Pluralism

2 What Is the People? A Conceptual History of Civil Society

3 From Ancient Virtues to Modern Values: Positive Liberty and the Creative Will

4 The Teleology of Modern Time: Negative Liberty and Human Nature

5 Splitting the Individual: The Subatomic Values of Liberalism

6 Conservatism and the Temporal Order

7 Socialism and the Power of Social Unity

8 Democracy as a Pattern of Disagreement



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