Books > Even by a Nation of Devils: Democracy, Liberalism and Republicanism
Modern democracy has taken shape amidst the tension between liberalism and republicanism. The former mistrusts citizens, especially the poorest. It created institutions that, if possible, would be immune to the voices of the non-virtuous. Contrary to this concept of democracy, republicanism aspires to spread the ideal of citizenship starting with the right to vote. Whether things go one way or the other, whether aristocratic ideals or participation are aimed at, it will be, as Félix Ovejero points out in this work, a matter "of the noise and the fury of history." In the first part of the book, the author shows that liberal arguments that have traditionally mistrusted citizens are, in fact, the result of institutional problems of liberalism. While examining these institutions in terms of freedom and democracy, Ovejero would show that, contrary to popular opinion, liberalism has significant points of tension with democratic ideals. The second part of the book focuses on republican tradition and its idea of democracy. It examines the way in which the republican concepts of virtue, participation, deliberation, freedom, and self-governance are interrelated. It also shows the rationale and the relevance each of them had in bringing about democratic institutions, material equality, and civic virtue. Ovejero quotes Kant, for whom "the republican constitution is the only one which does compromise justice to the rights of man. But it is also the most difficult to establish...so that many maintain that it would only be possible within a state of angels....". Nevertheless, Kant advocates for this constitution asserting "the problem of setting up a state can be solved even by a nation of devils (as long as they possess understanding). Republicanism, concludes Ovejero, offers a gateway from the liberal dilemma between freedom and democracy.
Translated by Julie Scales
Writer and professor of Economics, Ethics and Social Sciences at the University of Barcelona, where he was awarded his Ph.D. in Economics. He completed long-term stays as Visiting Professor at the Universities of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has also taught courses and seminars in various European and American universities. Additionally, he has published a great number of articles in specialized journals in the fields of social theory, philosophy of the social sciences, and political philosophy. He is a regular collaborator with newspapers such as El País. Among his well-known works are De la naturaleza a la sociedad (1987); Intereses de todos, acciones de cada uno (1989); La quimera fértil (1994) Mercado, ética y economía (1994); La libertad inhóspita (2002); El compromiso del método (2004); Proceso Abierto. El Socialismo Después del Socialismo (2005); Contra Cromagnon. Nacionalismo, ciudadanía, democracia ( 2007); Incluso un pueblo de demonios: democracia, liberalismo, republicanismo (2009) and as a co-author Razones para el socialismo (with Roberto Gargarella) (2002) and Nuevas ideas republicanas: autogobierno y libertad (with José Luis Martí and Roberto Gargarella) (2003). He was one of the adherents to the intellectual platform manifesto Ciutadans de Catalunya, which gave rise to the political party Ciudadanos-Party of Citizenship.