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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $20.50

128 pp.
5.25" x 8"


Publication date:
January 2012

Imprint: OUP Canada

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

C.B. Macpherson
Introduction by Frank Cunningham

Series : The Wynford Project

In this brief but powerful book, acclaimed political philosopher C.B. Macpherson sets out in bold relief the essence of liberal democracy, both as it is currently conceived and as it might be reimagined. Macpherson argues that from its beginnings liberal democracy has accepted the underpinning principle of capitalist societies, that the "market maketh man." If that remains the central assumption of liberal democracy, Macpherson declares, then as an organizing framework for society, liberal democracy has reached the end of its useful life. But if a broader concept of liberal democracy is accepted - "if [Macpherson writes] liberal democracy is taken to mean ... a society striving to ensure that all its members are equally free to realize their capabilities" - the great days of liberal democracy may yet lie ahead. The Wynford edition includes a new Introduction by Frank Cunningham of the University of Toronto.

Readership : Courses in political and social philosophy at the 2nd year through graduate level.

Introduction to the Wynford Edition
I. Models and Precursors
The Nature of the Inquiry
The Use of Models
(i) Why Models?
(ii) Why Historically Successive Models?
(iii) Why These Models?
Precursors of Liberal Democracy
(i) Democracy and Class
(ii) Pre-nineteenth Century Theories as Precursors
II. Model 1: Protective Democracy
The Break in the Democratic Tradition
The Utilitarian Base
Bentham's Ends of Legislation
The Political Requirement
James Mill's Seesaw
Protective Democracy for Market Man
III. Model 2: Developmental Democracy
The Emergence of Model 2
Model 2A: J.S. Mill's Developmental Democracy
The Taming of the Democratic Franchise
Model 2B: Twentieth-Century Developmental Democracy
IV. Model 3: Equilibrium Democracy
The Entrepreneurial Market Analogy
The Adequacy of Model 3
(i) Descriptive Adequacy
(ii) Explanatory Adequacy
(iii) Justificatory Adequacy
The Faltering of Model 3
V. Model 4: Participatory Democracy
The Rise of the Idea
Is More Participation Now Possible?
(i) The Problem of Size
(ii) A Vicious Circle and Possible Loopholes
Models of Participatory Democracy
(i) Model 4A: An Abstract First Approximation
(ii) Model 4B: A Second Approximation
Participatory Democracy as Liberal Democracy
Further Reading

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

C.B. Macpherson (1911-1987) was professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Widely regarded as Canada's pre-eminent political theorist of the twentieth century, he was the author of numerous books, including Democratic Theory: Essays in Retrieval and The Real World of Democracy, and was named to the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour.

The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism - C. B. Macpherson
Introduction by Frank Cunningham
Democratic Theory - C.B. Macpherson
Introduction by Frank Cunningham

Special Features

  • Foundational work. One of the key pieces of writing on twentieth-century political philosophy.
  • Back in print. This long out-of-print book is now available in an affordable new edition.
  • New Introduction. Frank Cunningham of the University of Toronto puts the work in a twenty-first-century context in his new Introduction.