Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy
by Charles Arthur Willard
University of Chicago Press, 1996
Paper: 978-0-226-89846-9 | Cloth: 978-0-226-89845-2
Library of Congress Classification JC574.W55 1996
Dewey Decimal Classification 320.5

In this witty and provocative study of democracy and its critics, Charles Willard debunks liberalism, arguing that its exaggerated ideals of authenticity, unity, and community have deflected attention from the pervasive incompetence of "the rule of experts." He proposes a ground of communication that emphasizes common interests rather than narrow disputes.

The problem of "unity" and the public sphere has driven a wedge between libertarians and communitarians. To mediate this conflict, Willard advocates a shift from the discourse of liberalism to that of epistemics. As a means of organizing the ebb and flow of consensus, epistemics regards democracy as a family of knowledge problems—as ways of managing discourse across differences and protecting multiple views.

Building a bridge between warring peoples and warring paradigms, this book also reminds those who presume to instruct government that they are obliged to enlighten it, and that to do so requires an enlightened public discourse.

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