After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State

After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State

After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State

After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State


"Although I disagree with the author on many of his points, I strongly recommend it. Gottfried's thesis is refreshingly novel, strongly advanced, and clearly presented. Whether one is interested in the future of the welfare state or family values, or the economic and social future of America, this is a book one wishes to read."--Amitai Etzioni, author of "The New Golden Rule

"This brilliant and disquieting book should reshape current debates and be essential reading for all who seek to understand them."--Elizabeth Fox-Genovese

"This thoughtful work reflects the intellectual qualities of an erudite political philosopher whose knowledge of European political philosophy in the twentieth century is particularly impressive."--John Lukacs


The association of public administration with liberal democracy is by now taken for granted. At the end of the twentieth century, this relation seems both natural and unavoidable. According to journalists and the authors of college textbooks, justice and freedom can only operate harmoniously in a liberal democratic welfare state. Almost all Western governments now embrace that idea, and these governments' shared features have come to outweigh their cultural and institutional distinctions. in each of them professional administrators oversee the details of popular government, look after social services, regulate commerce, and provide for suitable transfers of income. in such welfare states, democracy has become synonymous with economic policy, usually signifying the distribution of entitlements or allowances, and services, and at least some public management of national resources, key industries, and corporate wealth.

There are, of course, degrees in the way different countries have pursued these activities. But these relate to differences of degree and not of kind. Whether a particular democratic welfare state adds utilities to its public sector or controls them indirectly by determining wage levels, hiring practices, and permitted profits, is a practical decision. But the government's position of control remains awesomely powerful in either case. This became so in a mass democratic age, when entire populations began to demand an “equitable” distribution of wealth and of access to consumer goods. the creation of this state mechanism (what the French call aptly le dispositif social) took place in response to popular demand; that is, enlarged electorates produced mandates for a changed regime. It also drew legitimacy from a “liberal” creed: government exists to promote individual gratification. Absent that responsibility, the state is no longer living up to an implicit social contract.

Until recently, however, there was no necessary tie between a publicly administered unitary state and liberal democratic ideology. Before the . . .

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