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Serbian Political Thought

The Clash of Irreconcilable Worlds: A Critique of V.J. Vanberg’s Thesis on the Complementarity of Liberalism and Democracy


This paper represents a critique of Viktor J. Vanberg’s thesis that liberalism and democracy are in some kind of natural symbiosis, owing to the same normative premise (individual sovereignty) and the same mode of relation (voluntary agreement) present among members of hypothetical social contract. This thesis is shown to be incorrect on two principal levels of investigation: level of abstract/normative analysis and level of history of relationship between liberalism and democracy. Vanberg’s treatment of the issue has several theoretical deficiencies: generally problematic positioning of liberalism and democracy, inappropriate mixing of normative level with methodological one, and narrow use of the notion “voluntary agreement“. Furthermore, historical experience of relationship of liberalism and democracy presented within this paper, documents that this relation should be explained in terms of struggle over dominance, rather than in terms of peaceful coexistence and natural symbiosis. The intentions of the critique of Vanberg’s attempt to “reconcile irreconcilable” is not just to present misguided arguments of this author, but also to show that, generally speaking, liberalism and democracy are two irreconcilable worlds and two more than different political philosophies.

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PERIODICS Serbian Political Thought 2/2011eng 2/2011 UDC 329.12:321.7]:321.01 63-79