Is Democracy Possible Here? Principles for a New Political Debate

This is an interesting and well-written book with a clear argumentative thread: American politics is bedevilled by a ‘yahboo’ discourse that must be replaced by reasoned (liberal) argument. Dworkin thinks the Republicans and Democrats, and their respective supporters, would stop talking past each other if only they both realised that they intuitively agreed on (liberal) fundamentals – a ‘common ground.’ In effect, he thinks that the Right do not have a philosophical leg to stand on. The logic of their position – whether in relation to gay marriage, taxation, torture, security and human rights, the role of religion in political life – contradicts their own cherished (liberal) principles, namely, that every human life is intrinsically and equally valuable, and that each person has an inalienable personal responsibility for identifying and realising the value of their own life (‘the two principles of human dignity’ – the former principle often associated with the Left, the latter with the Right – offering us a kind of ‘Third Way’ in political philosophy). He does admit the possibility the Right might be able to interpret these principles in their own way, but for the most part Dworkin finds it difficult to imagine what a coherent position might look like.

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