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Ronald Dworkin:Is Democracy Possible Here? ——Principles for a New Political Debate

2010年1月20日 发表评论 阅读评论

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Politics in America are polarized and trivialized, perhaps as never before. In Congress, the media, and academic debate, opponents from right and left, the Red and the Blue, struggle against one another as if politics were contact sports played to the shouts of cheerleaders. The result, Ronald Dworkin writes, is a deeply depressing political culture, as ill equipped for the perennial challenge of achieving social justice as for the emerging threats of terrorism. Can the hope for change be realized? Dworkin, one the world’s leading legal and political philosophers, identifies and defends core principles of personal and political morality that all citizens can share. He shows that recognizing such shared principles can make substantial political argument possible and help replace contempt with mutual respect. Only then can the full promise of democracy be realized in America and elsewhere.

Dworkin lays out two core principles that citizens should share: first, that each human life is intrinsically and equally valuable and, second, that each person has an inalienable personal responsibility for identifying and realizing value in his or her own life. He then shows what fidelity to these principles would mean for human rights, the place of religion in public life, economic justice, and the character and value of democracy. Dworkin argues that liberal conclusions flow most naturally from these principles. Properly understood, they collide with the ambitions of religious conservatives, contemporary American tax and social policy, and much of the War on Terror. But his more basic aim is to convince Americans of all political stripes–as well as citizens of other nations with similar cultures–that they can and must defend their own convictions through their own interpretations of these shared values.

Ronald Dworkin, winner of the 2007 Ludvig Holberg International Memorial Prize, is the author of many books, including Sovereign Virtue, Freedom’s Law, and Life’s Dominion. He is the Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law at New York University and the Bentham Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London.

Reviews:

“Of the season’s books deploring the quality of our political discourse, the classiest is Ronald Dworkin’s Is Democracy Possible Here?“–Michael Kinsley, New York Times

“Can it be legitimate to set aside the normal constitutional rights to privacy and to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention–or from being tortured, in the case of suspected terrorists? Can we balance their rights against the risk to other people’s right to life itself, so as to justify some downgrading of rights of terrorist suspects? With painstaking clarity Dworkin shows how such a preparedness selectively to downgrade protection of fundamental rights offends the deepest principles of the US Constitution, when in turn we read these as concretizing more fundamental principles of human dignity…Is Democracy Possible Here? is a strong opening statement in this hoped-for debate, from a resolutely liberal stance.”–Neil MacCormick, Times Literary Supplement

“Ronald Dworkin . . . argues that liberals and conservatives must realize that each camp is working for the same goal of a better nation. . . . Dworkin’s book deserves careful consideration and response.”–Publishers Weekly

“A perceptive and penetrating book. Mr. Dworkin’s distinction between a tolerant religious community and a tolerant secular community, and his argument about balancing security against honor and not against rights, should be required reading for every American.”–The New York Observer

More reviews

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Preface xi
Chapter 1: Common Ground 1
Chapter 2: Terrorism and Human Rights 24
Chapter 3: Religion and Dignity 52
Chapter 4: Taxes and Legitimacy 90
Chapter 5: Is Democracy Possible? 127
Epilogue 160
Notes 165
Index 171

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