The Limits of Liberal Democracy

Prospects for Democratizing Democracy

in Democratic Theory
Viviana Asara Institute for Multi-Level Governance and Development, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

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This critical commentary discusses Stephan Lessenich's recent work on democracy. It argues that—to understand the structural boundaries of welfare capitalist democracy—we must critically unearth the limits of liberal democracy. This article first maintains that the absence of an economic democratization dimension is an outcome of liberal democracy's shrinking of the meaning of the political. It next claims that defining democracy in terms of rights does not duly consider how these unfolded historically and recently, nor clarifies their relation with negative freedom. The article then contends that the environmentally destructive dialectic of democracy and the belittlement of reproductive work stem from the constitution of a narrowly defined economic sphere, from which “reproductive activities” are excluded. Finally, the text reflects on what “democratizing democracy” should entail.

Contributor Notes

Viviana Asara is assistant professor at the Institute for Multi-Level Governance and Development at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. She is a social scientist working at the interception between social, political, and environmental issues. Her work focuses on democracy and state theories, degrowth and social-ecological transformation, social movements, and movement-parties. E-mail:

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