Governance in a Disenchanted World
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Governance in a Disenchanted World

The End of Moral Society

Helmut Willke

This book expounds the idea of a disenchanted world composed of nation states and global functional systems. The nation state is losing some of its regulatory prerogatives and, at the same time, extending its legitimacy base in ‘chains of legitimacy’ to transnational institutions. There is neither a global democracy nor a global government. Therefore, establishing alternative forms of legitimacy, accountability and participation in a secular world seem mandatory. Helmut Willke examines the resurgence of moral reasoning in global affairs, pushed by various fundamentalisms, that indicates a real danger of a regression of democracy. The separation of private morals and public policies, the book argues, remains the basis of global aspirations of democracy.
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Chapter 6: The Spirit of Liberalism

Helmut Willke


Liberalism is one of the outstanding answers to the perennial questions of dominance, order, and freedom in modern societies. The idea of liberalism has ancient roots but it needed the dawn of modernity through Renaissance, enlightenment and secularization to come to bloom. Liberal thinking has evolved through many phases and variants, encompassing a broad spectrum of ideas which focus on the unique role of the individual in increasingly complex societal contexts (Krugman 2007). In circumstances of hyper-complexity, as exemplified by global contexts, it seems tantamount to reinvigorate the spirit of liberalism in order to probe the options for varieties of democracy and capitalism. This is a difficult and crucial point of our argument. The difficulty arises from bringing together two seemingly paradox contentions. First, an increasingly powerful globalization forces us to accept that the traditional standards of formal democracy, legitimacy and democratic accountability cannot be expected to apply to global contexts since the world is far away from global democracy and a global governmental regime. Still, the emergence of various global governance regimes amounts to a strengthening of important components of democratic self-governance since these regimes incorporate strong elements of self-organization, self-guidance, self-defined autonomy and participation of relevant actors and institutions. All this remains, to be sure, an ambiguous and contested experiment in expanding democracy to include private authority, indirect power and derivatives of legitimacy. But it arguably is a better option than delimiting democracy to the level of the (modern) nation-states and leaving global contexts to a regime of...

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