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Rarely has partisan rhetoric been more divisive or political bickering more infantile than over the last few election cycles. In this short book, Dworkin, a professor of law and philosophy at New York University and Oxford University, argues that liberals and conservatives must realize that each camp is working for the same goal of a better nation. Dworkin (Law's Empire) builds this work on the assertion that most Americans accept certain fundamental principles, the most important of which are the beliefs that "each human life has a special kind of objective value" and "each person has a special responsibility for realizing the success of his own life." From these conventionally conservative maxims, Dworkin constructs an unmistakably liberal legal framework, coming down in favor of due process for terror suspects, same-sex marriage, abortion rights and progressive taxation and social welfare policies. Written in simple and sometimes repetitive language, some of the book's sections are more compelling than others. The too-brief passage on abortion, for instance, is unlikely to make any converts, and the final chapter, on tax-and-spend policies, may strike some as naïve. Though his claim that democracy is imperiled by a dearth of rational public debate is certainly overblown, Dworkin's book deserves careful consideration and response. (Sept.)
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"Of the season's books deploring the quality of our political discourse, the classiest is Ronald Dworkin's Is Democracy Possible Here?"--Michael Kinsley, New York Times
"Can it be legitimate to set aside the normal constitutional rights to privacy and to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention--or from being tortured, in the case of suspected terrorists? Can we balance their rights against the risk to other people's right to life itself, so as to justify some downgrading of rights of terrorist suspects? With painstaking clarity Dworkin shows how such a preparedness selectively to downgrade protection of fundamental rights offends the deepest principles of the US Constitution, when in turn we read these as concretizing more fundamental principles of human dignity...Is Democracy Possible Here? is a strong opening statement in this hoped-for debate, from a resolutely liberal stance."--Neil MacCormick, Times Literary Supplement
"Ronald Dworkin . . . argues that liberals and conservatives must realize that each camp is working for the same goal of a better nation. . . . Dworkin's book deserves careful consideration and response."--Publishers Weekly
"A perceptive and penetrating book. Mr. Dworkin's distinction between a tolerant religious community and a tolerant secular community, and his argument about balancing security against honor and not against rights, should be required reading for every American."--The New York Observer
"[Dworkin's] object is not to confirm liberals' prejudices, whether well or ill founded. It is to argue a way out of prejudices on both sides: he does it with grace and, for the most part, with justice. . . . [T]he book has real value. For its purpose is to remind us that a healthy debate is impossible without a culture of argument and a desire by political leaders to find an agreement to differ based on mutual recognition of the nature of the issue and its centrality to political life."--John Lloyd, Financial Times
"Eminent philosopher Dworkin . . . attempts to address our 'degraded politics,' which he believes threaten the legitimacy of America's political order, by proposing two principles that can be shared even among those on opposite edges of today's political divides: that each human life has objective value and that each person has responsibility for realizing the potential of his or her own life. . . . [This is] among the most accessible of Dworkin's many books."--Robert F. Nardini, Library Journal (starred review)
"Is Democracy Possible Here? is not a work of political theory, but an intervention in the nation's political culture. . . . [Ronald Dworkin's] openness to political dialogue is, ultimately, what makes Is Democracy Possible Here? such a constructive book."--Mike O'Connor, Austin American-Statesman
"There is much to recommend in Dworkin's short book. . . . His quest to discover the common ground he and his fellow citizens actually share is admirable. His recognition that the common ground is to be found in widely shared and deeply held premises about the equality and freedom of all is sound. And his case on behalf of progressive reform . . . is elegantly put and will provide fellow left-liberals with fresh inspiration and conservatives with fresh challenges."--Peter Berkowitz, First Things
"Ronald Dworkin's latest masterpiece . . . will appeal to anyone interested in learning more about the current state of American politics. As well, it will also appeal to anyone interested in political pedagogy and contemporary politics. Here, they will find a rich source of material regarding the social and political debates of this time. Dworkin has succeeded in providing an historical context for his two core principles of American democracy, and his account of the current lack of debate within the public sphere will bring new frontiers of inquiry to readers of all political, legal, and moral backgrounds. This is a book that deserves thoughtful consideration and engaged response; I highly recommend it."--Stephanie Zubcic Stacey, European Legacy