Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez, Liberalism and democracy

from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective
Revista de Ciencias Sociales

Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective
Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez

Universidad del Cauca, Colombia /

Abstract: In the present article an analysis is developed, approached from the political philosophy, on the conception the Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio (1909-2004) outlined about two of the most important political traditions produced by the western culture and which are, without a doubt, pillars upon which modernity has been built: democracy and liberalism. From this perspective approaching and encounter points are identified, the same as the tensions that energize the relationship between democracy and liberalism as well as some contradictions that spur Bobbio’s thought. Key words: Democracy, liberalism, political liberalism, liberal State, liberal democracy. Resumen: En el presente artículo se desarrolla un análisis, abordado desde la filosofía política, en torno a la concepción que el filósofo italiano Norberto Bobbio (1909-2004) planteara acerca de dos de las más importantes tradiciones políticas que ha producido la cultura occidental, y que son, sin duda alguna, pilares sobre los que se ha edificado la modernidad: la democracia y el liberalismo. Desde esta perspectiva se identifican aproximaciones y puntos de encuentro, lo mismo que las tensiones que dinamizan la relación entre democracia y liberalismo, así como algunas contradicciones que permean el pensamiento de Bobbio. Palabras clave: democracia, liberalismo, liberalismo político, Estado liberal, democracia liberal.

ISSN 1405-1435, UAEMex, num. 48, September - December 2008, pp. 19-38


Convergencia, num. 48, September -December 2008, UAEMex, Mexico

Introduction1 When we refer to the relationship between liberalism and democracy we commonly suppose or suspect that both political categories are close to each other, either because they are too familiar to us or because, in other words, they are very common. The intertwinement that we suppose between them is nourished, obviously, by any discursive and ideological charge that, in the daily life acts, is spread having as source different origins (mass media, political speeches, demonstrations, et cetera). Don’t we even mention a democraticliberal Weltanschauung? Don’t we even refer nowadays to a liberal democracy that not only stands triumphantly, but which is also pompously said to be healthy? Obviously, one thing is to take for granted that this relationship between liberalism and democracy exists, and another one, as it corresponds to the intellectual work that the political philosopher has to perform, is to demonstrate and clarify its meaning, to clarify at which historical moment and how the fusion took place, which divisions can be determined, what tensions arise, which bridges or ideological rapprochements ease establishing a conciliation that we could call effective, as well as which conditions of the political environment in the society encourage controversy. It is necessary to tackle these and other concerns given their significance and complexity. The analysis and reflection on these two political practices around which the current social and economic life revolve becomes a more important situation after the fall of the real socialism that left liberal democracy without its natural antagonist. After all, such task involves the knowledge aspect, both in the ethical imperative that encourages us to continue speaking about things that have already been said, a part of it which is to assume detachments or controversies with ideas or points of view that are not shared, and with regard to the expectations that arise based on what is expected to be said. To take part in the theoretical debate as well as in the production of knowledge, whichever

The present article is part of the research project the author develops inside Culture and Politics Group (Grupo Cultura y Política), which he belongs to. Said group is ascribed to the department of Philosophy of Universidad del Cauca and is recognized by Colciencias in Category B.


For instance. understood as a way of intervention in the decisions of the society according to equity and participation principles. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective the topic is. when we have the belief that we have just spoken little a about a specific problem. at the same time. to continue looking for new alternatives of interpretation. we don’t infer that there is more clarity or that the doubts had been cancelled once and forever. a debate about liberalism and democracy cannot be considered settled. 2 21 . and nevertheless (that is. because political philosophy definitely cannot be understood as a reason clause. an issue of utmost importance if we bear in mind the future of our societies. they have also launched the preventive politics of the government of the elites. as open and lasting attitude. big and challenging. despite its almost unquestionable supremacy) its achievement stops being exempt of risks. not only can we cast doubt on the roles that have been performed. On the contrary. In any case. As an example of this we could mention that democracy. 2005). when we suppose we talk about something with great intensity. Tendencies that not only put on the same level the political struggle for power and the economic logic of the market and the individual calculation (MacPherson. but in the position of individuals who cannot establish radical detachments to the concerns that the political flux poses.Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. But if we consider the opposite situation. that is.2 as in the economic field capitalism globalizes. the invitation to the philosophical debate.3 This universalization would be equivalent to the expansive waver of the democracy that Huntington explains (1994). difficulties and incoherences. is being undermined by neoconservative and neoliberal tendencies in our countries. that we have barely taken charge of it. but we shall also understand that to undertake a task of conceptual clarification (extremely necessary) is. This fact brings us face to face contemporarily with the presence of two political traditions that despite tending to be universalized. does not set us in the position of neutral or dispassionate subjects. 3 Antonio Ocaña (1991: 39) speaks about the democradura to make reference precisely to the configuration of the democracy as the government of elites. to continue persisting in finding new ways to comprehend. leads us to continue asking questions.

regarding the incidence that the citizen may have in the final decisions. exchange of privileges. in a representative way. it will be said that these and other faults are attributable to the fact that modern democracy cannot correspond to a direct exercise. the unity of the nation (as collective body). as Bobbio will affirm. Mexico Based on this ideological resource. 48. a matter that does not go unnoticed if we consider the consequences brought about in relationship to the loss of legitimacy of the liberal democratic regimes in Latin America. seems to lead us to a naturalization of the dissolution process of the majority government’s principle in hands of the selected minorities’ government. no matter that those called to take part recast themselves in tactics such as the empty promises and vote poaching. where the demo-liberal political theory has shown to gather and renovate. This kind of political demoralization is fed by the distancing that operates between the parliamentary assemblies. with regard to the direct compromise that there should be with the voter. September . therefore. etcetera). num. in whose members the popular sovereignty is delegated. especially at the level of the Latin American countries where democracy is weak. insofar as the participation is perceived as an unimportant act (useless. extremely) for us. as well as with the rhetorical character that democracy embodies in reference to the materialization of the power of the people.Convergencia. the domestication of the harmful effects caused by the overflow that are ascribed to the people when they act as the main political character (the risks of tyranny and despotism of the majorities). that is. UAEMex. is only possible through the presence of diverse scales 22 . inefficient). a task in charge of the armed forces) On the one hand.December 2008. So. the observance of the political practice. Much to the regret of Rousseau’s ideal that yearned for the direct democracy of the Greeks. which apart from being non-viable turns out to be very strange (if one wants. in the main decisions that have the congresses as scenery. a certain state of mind of disenchantment is reinforced in the people’s imaginary. and the tortuous evolution that they have had (including the denaturalization caused by the political class and its disruption. with its corruption consequences (promising a post in the government in exchange for votes. what is indeed pursued is the neutralization of the democracy of the masses and. After all. real democracy of modern men.

insofar as freedom (as common destiny of men) and equality (as intervention of the people to define the orientation of the society) become compatible with them. an aspect which represents a distance between ancient and modern civilizations. it is true that it can’t be indifferent to us the concern on their social effectiveness. In any case. especially. taking the ideas of Benjamin Constant as a support (1820). it is not enough (nor convincing) to reduce democracy only to procedural-political or procedural-electoral phenomena. Norberto Bobbio. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective of mediation and compromise. for the excluded majorities? The debate set out by Norberto Bobbio on liberalism and democracy Despite the fact that in the current political and daily use of the words liberalism and democracy they seem to be equivalent. Bobbio points out that the liberal and democratic ideals would start to go hand in hand. in the sense that the ancient Greeks practiced it. liberalism follows the former. that dodges. This exposition is supported by resorting to the explanation of a double differentiation: that it is not only about political categories that have different historical times. that is. But even if the primacy of the political guardianship of the rulers and elected over the people is argued. Despite the fact that the electoral democracy contributes to reinforce the conviction in the civilized (and successive) dispute for power that parties and political organizations start under the leadership the State provides. but that the separation that there is between them has to do at the same time with the conception and experience of freedom. being characterized as a modern phenomenon. and despite the acknowledgement of the existent complexity. but it also has to do with the conceptual meaning that political liberalism and democracy 23 . Can one consider that a governance exercise is effective. which nowadays live in Latin America in marginalization and exclusion conditions. that turns deaf ears to the practical controversy on the construction of more dignifying and fair ways of life for the members of the society and.Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. however as democratic as it might be. establishes a historical distinction between both political forms: While democracy is previous to liberalism. taking for granted the impossibility of the direct democracy (given the expansive process and the increase of the societies). on its capacity to meet the demands and protests for justices that come from great layers of the population.

September . For Bobbio this is a shape that is symbolized in the regulation of the exercise of the power. In this respect Bobbio refers to that which Constant expressed and says: As a thoroughgoing liberal. as for they did not set out the obligation of setting limits to the political power. the second makes it from egalitarianism.* So that liberalism. Constant held that these two aims were mutually incompatible. Based on this. In contrast to them.Convergencia. and loses his liberty as a private person. understood in neutral sense. that is. which would give rise (in practice) to the obedience and subordination of the individual to the political community (that is. While the first stands in the lands of the restoration of the sense of individual independence. liberalism will become a philosophy on the individual (as subject). and it is private liberty which citizen today demands of public power (Bobbio. which corresponds. num. Norberto (2005) “Liberalism and Democracy”. also. to the adoption of ways of life framed in broader territorial contexts. has to be limited (in its use and functions). the identification of the liberal State as limited * Source: Bobbio. 48. as they did not also developed a theory about the rights. So that when Bobbio mentions the liberal State he refers to a doctrinal point of view. what the moderns did was exactly the opposite: the final end is the defense of the individual liberty.December 2008.4 In these terms. in general sense. according to which power. Bobbio considers that the ancient understood (and lived) liberty as direct participation of the citizens in public affairs and in the distribution of power. in the subordination of the public powers to the controls (limits) established and defined in the written norms. Mexico have. emerges then as a philosophy of change. But in a more specific sense. as a kind of thought that causes (or fosters) transformations and that adopts progressive positions that are able to break all the factors that tend to paralyze the thought and the society (progress ideology). independently from who exercises it. London: Verso TN (Translator’s Note) 4 For Norberto Bobbio this aspect marks a distinctive feature of the ancient civilizations. that is. UAEMex. the individual ends up being subordinated to the authority of the whole. 1993: 7). more political. the negation of the liberty by handing it over). 24 . Where everyone participates directly in collective decisions. and human liberty (as principle) an institutional philosophy on the form of the State. as guarantee of the private life.

one must observe that said categorization of a minimal State used by Bobbio responds in fact to the historical emergence of the classic liberal State (leave to do. this minimal State is the opposite of a maximal State. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective State is materialized in the State of Law (or constitutional State). According to Bobbio. In respect of the limits of power one speaks currently of the rights-based. the Absolutist State. and by extension to the totalitarisms and to the State of social intervention. but it becomes the cause of the social problems and in a source of ingovernance of the democracy itself. which liberal society considers significant. Even though liberalism conceives the State as both lawful and minimal. and thus as differing from both the absolute state and from what is nowadays called the social state (Bobbio. leave to pass: laissez faire. through the enlargement of its intervention capacity. the liberal State. As it can be seen in the exposition of these comparisons. one can have rightsbased. 5 25 . […] ‘liberalism’ denotes a particular conception of the state. Liberalism refers us to limits both in the power and in the functions of the state. that is. 1993: 11). while the term minimal state is used in reference to the limit on function. which is ruled by the laws. and liberal in its economics (Bobbio. by the supremacy of the norms with higher rank (the fundamental laws) created by men and that are contained in the political Constitutions (according to a positivization that is extensive to the natural rights). as an ordainment that accepts constitutional pluralism (which results in the division of powers and their limitation by means of the law) in order not to conceal freedom and individual rights (and therefore. and also minimalist states which are not rights-based (as in the case of Hobbes’s Leviathan. hand in hand with high doses of dirigisme and paternalism.Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. emancipation). laissez passer) that. will welcome the For the classic liberals (and today for the neoliberals) the aspiration of the State of well-being of controlling the whole society. non-minimalist states (as with the social state today).5 Nevertheless. 1993: 7). in which the state is conceived as having limited powers and functions. in the interests of the defense of the economic freedom. becomes a minimal State. in the economic sphere: a state which is at one and at the same time absolute in the fullest sense of the term. not only is to the detriment of the freedom.

the satisfaction of the needs and most immediate and close desires (the private interest. just as economic liberalism states. The starting point consists in sustaining that what drives individuals is not the solidarity desire. that fall in the realm of the public order and citizen security. were not fully developed. Bobbio mentions: These are assumptions of the economic liberalism. no matter how these tendencies are constituted into natural laws (while they are decided freely by men. mainly. September . generation of wealth and. that is. but. which will situate the workers in a defenselessness labor situation towards the employers’ abuses and to the worsening of that which Marx calls the exploitation of the men by men Notice that Bobbio’s assessment is only correct despite the fact that that model of minimal State could be covered with constitutional robes (as State of law).6 In doing so. as long as it inspires competence and in the sense of the emulation. For Adam Smith. When applied to the political sphere it stimulates the political pluralism. that contend for power. egoism. to the capacity of the people to take part in the decisions taken in the society. 7 He accepts the antagonism between the individual and society as something that not only is necessary but favorable. as the existence of a variety of points of view and opinions that encourage the public controversy and the collective debate. and even different. understood both in the sense of the presence of the variety of organized political groups. and it would not necessarily make it democratic. democracy (in its minimal sense) refers more to the mode in which power is shared and distributed. while liberalism7 refers more to the role played by the State in relationship to the regulation of power and social coexistence. 6 26 . UAEMex. according to operational proceedings inspired in the principles of popular sovereignty. the search for wealth). on the contrary.December 2008. the well-being and the prosperity of the societies are conceived. 48. his greatest exponent. To that respect. trade. We must bear in mind that he so called “rules of the democratic game”. the prevalence of the ruling of the majority within the electoral systems. through which individuals take part in the democratic life. within the reach of all citizens. political equality of participation and. it will contract the state intervention in the police matters. What are those rules which characterize democracy as a distinctive political regime. therefore.Convergencia. with which the productive processes. from liberalism? According to Bobbio. to the exercise of the governance. in their ways of behaving and thinking) they do not need the intervention of a regulating power (that of the State). num. Mexico protection of the individual initiative and free competence.

that is. the freedom of opinion. ethnicity. 1994: 9). political opinions. to take part then in the election of its rulers or in the expression of opinions. etcetera). gender matters. allow highlighting the relationship that operates between the modern democracy and liberalism. with regard to its counter position to all modes of autocratic government. or rather in the majority. These definitions. that goes beyond the private identities or certain specific conditions that determine the individuals (beliefs. of expression and participation (by means of the vote). […] A ‘democratic regime’ is first and foremost a set of procedural rules for arriving at collective decisions in a way which accommodates and facilitates the fullest possible participation of interested parties (Bobbio. but lies with everybody. that in 27 . I warn that the only way to understand each other when talking about democracy. 1993: 7).Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. But despite Bobbio’s insistence in the fact that democracy is a method. being the development of the former a consequence of the presence of the latter. a result of the legal acknowledgement carried out by the constitutional State (rights-based State) in relationship to the individual liberties. the procedural rules that contain it do not safeguard democracy from the contrasts with reality. is to consider it as characterized by a set of rules (primary and fundamental) that establish who is authorized to make collective decisions and under which procedures (Bobbio. namely that in which power is not vested in a single individual or in the hands of a few. economic situation. that is. The favorable conditions for the citizen. that hold that which is formal and procedural. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective […] ‘democracy’ denotes one of the many possible modes of government. as political subject of the democracy. The convergence also occurs as for democracy will end up restoring the fundamental rights. according to a majoritarian participation. Democracy is thus differentiated from autocratic forms such as monarchy and oligarchy (Bobbio. for the sake of being communicated to the citizens in order to make possible their deliverance and election. 1994: 14). will be complete with the universalization of the suffrage and with citizen guarantee. the presence that diverse political alternatives shall have. sexual preferences. As well as the fact that for Bobbio democracy is not possible without a legal framework. it is also invalid if it is not accompanied by political pluralism.

nor inoculate them towards the fact that those representatives before being obligated to the nation as a matter of fact choose to establish strictly particular covenants and compromises. Neither is the representative democracy unaware of phenomena such as that in which decisions are focused in organizations. elites or in transnational corporations. which reflects the 8 The allusion to the fact that democracy has not represented previously a unique center of power (a centripetal society). UAEMex. unlike the primary concerns that supposedly characterize the masses. the sense of the liberty is distorted when popular sovereignty ends up delegated in the elected. of the formation of several circles of power. is called by Dahl (1993) as the formation of a poliarchy. Mexico the end are in charge of showing the contradictions into which democracy has fallen (the so called broken promises). while. which is unaware of the indifference of the citizen. We can’t forget that in the base of the articulation operated between liberalism and democracy lies the contradiction (and. To that respect he will answer saying that direct democracy. is suspicious of the representativeness of the democracy as materialization of that which can be called true democracy. so praised by the Genevan philosopher. therefore. whose vision would be too narrowly focused on their particular interests (Bobbio. 48. September . Despite the preached wisdom of the representatives. but that it has given place to a plurality of powers (a centrifugal or polycentric society as Bobbio calls it). that does not free them from committing lack of political responsibility with the elector. in order for them to decide for the people. is non-viable and unfeasible (unreal). by contrast. We shall remember that Rousseau (1993). of the presence of uninformed and non-politically educated citizens.December 2008. num. the strength of representative democracy lies in the judgment capacity that the elected have: Representative democracy was fostered also by the conviction that the citizen’s elected representatives would be better able to judge the common interest than the citizens themselves.8 et cetera. just as it happens nowadays under the neoliberal model. for instance. In his opinion. of the corruption of the political customs.Convergencia. 1993: 36). 28 . insofar as virtue that is attributed to them. the problem of complementarity) between the individual and the social.

The main difficulty lies more in the standstill into which Bobbio comes: If the representative democracy. has a kind of internal strength wherein its dynamics and vitality rest. the task of transformation looms within a clear horizon. the extension of power to the greater amount of people. On the one hand. but worse). Liberalism acknowledges that conflictive and egoist nature of the human being and insists in the primacy of the liberty. when the evidence that reality provide us with indicates that democracy does not seem willing to reform itself ? The risks of Bobbio’s position refer us to. to which Bobbio refers. At this level of the debate proponed by Bobbio. the demand of results in the exercise of the governance. the maintenance of the social unity. representative democracy nowadays. in terms of political form. 29 . from its origins. it seems then that we are pegged to the floor or anchored to a fixed position.Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. on the one hand. has no alternatives (at least no better ones. has taken sides on the side of the defense of the status quo and the dominant power. because even though we can well accept that liberal democracy is not immune to the crisis. the idea that democracy. it does not seem convincing (nor credible) to say that it enjoys good health. modern democracy planned as initial orientation. But insofar as it tends nowadays to become dominant. which is said to be in a constant state of transformation. In turn. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective conflict stated between individualism and organicism. without natural contraries in sight (as it would be the case of socialism that encouraged political antagonism in the world). After all. in the vigilance of the power of the State to preserve the individual independence. without disregarding that it has survived to many. brought to power by the political neutrality of the liberal State criterion. although we also coincide in saying that it is not dying. in order to organize the coexistence in the middle of the multiplicity. but it is framed more within a grey firmament. the concerned directed towards the common good and the collective order. how can one preach the natural state that it owns.

despite the innovation that it provided to the comprehension of the political life (from which conflict. by its identity with the need of moralizing politically the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and by the influence received initially from Marxism. democracy and socialism. heading the Philosophy of Right chair. that cannot be ignored if one thinks in the consensus on the desirable society (and on the idea of social justice and better life). fell short at the moment it underestimated the meaning that democracy and liberalism as political conquests have. in the third one (from the 80’s). From his resignation to the direct political life and his admission to the academic world. UAEMex.Convergencia. He was professor in the Camerino. September . num. in the second. and later in the National Committee for the Liberation of Papua. His though is nourished by the political experience associated to the struggle carried out against the fascist regime of Mussolini. understood in the modern sense. That underestimation that Bobbio attributes to Marxism turns against the Italian philosopher. Marx did not believe in the ideals of the bourgeoisie 9 Italian philosopher and jurist (1909-2004) that since his youth took part in the antifascist resistance. In 1984 he was appointed life senator by Alessandro Perini. antagonism. initially as member of the Justice and Liberty (Giustizia e Liberta) movement. violence and domination are not uninvolved). Siena.December 2008. lead by brothers Nello and Carlo Roselli. Bobbio started to highlight in one of his main theses that accompany and characterize his political philosophy: that Marxism. According to José María Gonzáles García. as a consequence he was arrested two times. after World War II. He joined the last one in 1948. Mexico The contradictions and disagreements between liberalism and democracy The intellectual personality of Norberto Bobbio9 is located within the scene outlined by the discourses produced. around democracy. the debate is focused in the debate with Marxism. 30 . once the Action Party was dissolved and from which he was a member since its creation in 1943. the reflection will have to do with modern democracy. 48. with regard to the rescue of the role that the proletariat plays as political force of transformation and change. in Norberto Bobbio one can observer three stages: in the first one he will highlight the differences between the Western democracies and the socialism established in the old USSR. Papua and Turin universities. within the undertaken reflection on liberalism.

pure personalized power game according to the usage of techniques for its conquest or preservation). Neither Marx believed in the neutrality assumption of the liberal State and its unbiased capacity to referee in the society. the Italian thinker is supporter of making them gravitate in the pragmatics (the offered results and advantages) for the individual rights. seen as irreconcilable given the unavoidable antagonism that motivates them. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective liberty. liberal democracy supposes a consensus on the political order.Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. the conflict and the constraint that are natural to power. but because it implied the emancipation of some men (the bourgeoisie) to the detriment of the negation of the liberty of other (the proletariat). as for the fact that it would configure a power without limits. the constitutionalization of the State. among other referents. according to which all citizens are treated equally. located on the sidelines of regulation. not because they did not represent the ideological strength of human emancipation. So that. despite the fact that it works better in the theoretical plane than in the practical. the radicalisms and the political overflows that derive from the practical application of the Marxist principles such as that of the dictatorship of the proletariat. as Bobbio reaffirms. It would also suppose a questioning of the opening sense that Machiavelli gave to politics (as for pure passion. has the virtue of proposing a line of analysis that tries to escape from the interpretative logics of the political tensions. which allows Bobbio to set politics in the field of its relationship with the State. the political hegemony and domination. But behind this conciliatory position. Regarding the emphasis set in the conception of man and social life. it ruins (eliminates) the antagonism. Some of them exude in Hobbes’s works (1996) or in those of Locke (1973). the universalization of the suffrage. what Bobbio really does is to warn about the dangers of the extrapolations. It is certain that the proposed conciliation (the liberal-socialism). It shall be highlighted that the defense of the demo-liberal institutions supposed by Bobbio has an Anglo-Saxon longing. which would seem that set us in the way of a certain 31 . which is not exempt from contradictions. To drink in the fountains of classic liberalism allows Bobbio to make a political displacement (from initial left positions to a latter centrism) and to state a conciliation with the original Marxism under the form of the liberal-socialism. the political pluralism.

It is from its political pedagogy that certain mistrust and suspicion derives with regard to the new political promises made from other shores. to something that cannot be understood as an accomplished fact or better said. the ambiguities and the features that make Latin American societies more dynamic. Lula da Silva and Evo Morales. the contradictions. as something that would appear to be a consolidation process. 48. in the best of the circumstances. it make us ask ourselves if in the direct politics that articulation he proposes is directed in the sense of the recovery of the social democracy or if. that is. The third is that speaking on a new socialism would imply to refer to a tendency and/or political alternative that certainly leaves room for. UAEMex. num. in which reconciliation is stated as that which up to the current moment turned irreconcilable. and who nowadays. from being or becoming real. The second is that I refer to a probability. This babbling tendency would be framed. apart from that. in Latin America. as well as reconcile what historically seems to have become an irresolute tension: the individual freedom and the collectivism. in the countries of the Iron Curtain. at least in the scale of time. we see ourselves in the need of turning to the previous political experiences that the Western world has seen. it would be related more with the possibility of considering an advanced socialism (renewed).December 2008. In the same way. for instance. September . as a political experience that. Mexico political idealism. and which nourish the disenchantment with modernity. they correspond more to the scrutiny of history. would differentiate itself. the private interest and the general interest. built with the political significance that not only comes from the working class but in general from the excluded and subordinated. the mobilization of imaginaries and representations. in future terms. although also diffuse. 32 . in the broad sense.Convergencia. seem to show signs in the political experiences of Hugo Chávez. within the conflicts. from vivid socialism. It is necessary to make several clarifications on the last aspect. in a manner of speaking. The first is that I refer to a socialism of new lineage. The fourth is that despite the responses to the several questions and expectations that one bears considering the possibility of a new socialism in the future. where it is possible to think the realization of justice and the redistribution of wealth. insofar as it is a distinction label.

then is it that we assume that the issue is a whim introduced for the delight of academic and intellectual agents? 33 . on the contrary. just as the liberal theory has postulated. after these clarifications. introduces an important note. from the primate of the moderate and gradual change instead of the revolution? Is it a call to settle the debt that democracy has with society. come to the fore. with which legal tools it is made). to the alert. of their values and principles. therefore. conservative? Is it a reflection of a political stance that. what is aimed is to think in what democracy should provide? We can also ask if the analysis that deals with the proceduralism of the representative democracy. on the contrary. Just consider how the exacerbation of the political empowerment of the masses. we shall say that a part of the questions that arise have to do with the reading that can be done on the implications around the Bobbio’s conception on the logic of the dominant power. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective In fact. could imply leaps and abstractions with regard to the democratic constitutional order and. in reference to the conception of power. his criticism. beyond the location of forces and actors in the political spectrum that is. Is his point of view. when they extol the democratic egalitarism? Or. nourished by a rampant populism and in significant doses of authoritarianism and power concentration. and distinctive. fears and challenges. These threats come either from several sides. both theoretical and practical. to the prevention of dangers related to the political excesses and incompetence that are attributed to the masses. as one of the outstanding notes in the minimal definition of democracy that Bobbio suggests (and for which it is more important to analyze who holds the domination instead of who exercises it. when it shows to be deaf and reluctant to listen to the social outcry of change? Does Bobbio reflect a kind of moral conscience that calls for a containment of the change. it is a brilliant invitation to think in the political transformation of the democratic societies. Now then. with regard to their justifications and legitimacy.Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. in the defense of the status quo. that is. And if the answer is negative. to achieve what up to now is a non-fulfillment history or. that is. both from left and right. aims at perceiving the consequences derived from the political decadence of the liberal institutionality.

the task of thinking the construction of a democratic political order (where the practices can be socialized to the whole society. according to the co-constructive proposal. that does not destroy (but integrates) the best part of the liberal democracy and the demands for change.Convergencia. on the sidelines of a capitalism that nowadays. finds itself in a globalizing process (expansive to the whole planet). of the political oligarchies. under the ideological leadership of the economic liberalism. up to where it is possible. the latter seen precisely as the mother of all democracies (Córdoba Gómez. hand in had with the ideological sacralization of the competence. the individualism and the market. September . Nevertheless. 48. that is. We are compelled to do so given the ingovernance and ineffectiveness of democracy to solve social problems. This. Bobbio seems to commit an abstraction as for the fact that said effort of conciliation cannot be considered if a leap in the vacuum is made. that is. instead of reducing it to closed spaces) a challenge continues being built for the political thought. I think that Bobbio’s challenge. marked by the increasing complexity and uncertainty. UAEMex. th edistortion of equality and the participation in hands of the multiplication of political mediators. of the empirical evidence that provide us the political reality. Political philosophy has to continue being an open forum to dialogue. hand in hand. in order to avoid the abuses of power. will consist in being able to achieve an break-even point in the antagonism that is unleashed when conservadurism is exacerbated (which accompanies liberalism) and the revolutionary radicalization (that accompanies the longing for change). sets on trial the vitality itself of the political philosophy so long as it requires the restor of creativity in order to be able to arrange the enlightening discourses of the political practices that outline new orientation routes and new courses of action. of the struggle started 34 . of course. to the critical debate. in the same way that to avoid making the terrible mistakes caused by the despotic and totalitarian experiences. num. of advancing towards a “liberal-socialism”. 2006: 132). if we want to interpret well the spirit of our days.December 2008. their exercise requires the design and existence of regulatory mechanisms. in spite of the risk of making mistakes. Mexico If we coincide in the thesis that human life would lack sense if we renounce to the idea of freedom (in the classic liberal sense) or to the demanding right to equality of the oppressed (in the Marxist sense).

Bobbio. is trapped within its own contradictions and labyrinths. Sociedad y Estado en la filosofía moderna. Thomas Hobbes. because any other alternative is unthinkable. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica. which not only deny it in itself.Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. Bobbio. Perry (1992). Estado. Bobbio. because it. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective between the elites (Schumpter. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Perfil ideológico del siglo XX en Italia. El modelo iusnaturalista y el modelo hegeliano-marxiano. Caracas: Nueva Sociedad. there are not desirable options or. because essentially there are not choices before us. La teoría de las formas de gobierno en la historia del pensamiento político. Norberto and Michelangelo Bovero (1985). gobierno y sociedad: por una teoría general de la política. Colección Pensamiento Crítico. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Norberto and Michelangelo Bovero (1986). Norberto (1989). Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. “La evolución política de Norberto Bobbio”. Mexico: Grijalbo. Origen y fundamentos del poder político. Bibliography Anderson. Norberto (1989). Norberto (1978). 1971). ¿Existe una teoría marxista del Estado?. or we shall continue dealing with a democracy that refuses to be improved (to go deeper). José María and Fernando Quesada [coords. in an inexorable way. socialismo. It consists either on be satisfied with the democracy we have (as we know it). Bobbio. Norberto (1987). 35 . but that do not allow it to come out of that whirlpool that imprisons it. Teorías de la democracia. Bobbio. Barcelona: Anthropos. Liberalismo.]. Perry (1993). Bobbio. in Gonzáles. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Anderson. of the technocrats and bureaucrats. Norberto (1992). We could only renounce to that task if we end up accepting certain historical fatalism that derives from Bobbio’s exposition. in other words. Bobbio. socialismo liberal. Pensamiento Utópico. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

“La democracia como valor universal”. Bogotá. Utilitarismo. Bogotá: Fondo de Cultura Económica. El futuro de la democracia. Popayán: Universidad del Cauca. Pedro [comp. Benjamín (1820). UAEMex. Bogotá: Foro Nacional por Colombia.]. Las incertidumbres de la democracia. Luis Antonio (2006). La democracia y sus críticos. IV.]. Las incertidumbres de la democracia. volume II. México: Fontamara. Pedro [comp. Mexico Bobbio. in Filosofía política: Crítica y balances. September . Bobbio. Bogotá: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Constant. Pedro [comp. Bobbio. “Las disoluciones de la democracia”. Córdoba Gómez. Francois (1995). Bogotá: Foro Nacional por Colombia. Enrique (2006). Las incertidumbres de la democracia.]. part 7. Norberto (1993). Pedro [comp. vol. Farrel. Cordero. “¿Que alternativas a la democracia representativa?. in Santana Rodríguez. Dubet. Bogotá: Foro Nacional por Colombia. Paris: Librería Béchet. CREFAL. Rolando (1995). Las incertidumbres de la democracia. “De la liberté des anciens compareé à celle des modernes”. in Santana Rodríguez. Robert (1993). Dahl. 20 tesis de política. Barcelona: Gedisa. “Socialismo y liberalismo: Química o alquimia?”.]. 48. Martín Diego (1997). Dahl. Barcelona: Paidós. Las incertidumbres de la democracia. Bogotá: Foro Nacional por Colombia. “El desencanto político con la modernidad: las razones interpretativas de una crisis”. Bogotá: Foro Nacional por Colombia. Liberalismo y democracia. Bobbio. in Santana Rodríguez. El siglo del liberalismo. Robert (1994). Círculo de Lectores (1984). in Santana Rodríguez. Norberto (1994). Historia Universal. Norberto (1995). Bobbio. Norberto (1995).]. 36 . Norberto (1995). in Santana Rodríguez. Bogotá: Siglo XXI. in Collection complète des ouvrages. ¿Después de la revolución?. “Democracia política y democracia social: ruptura de un vínculo”. Dussel. Pedro [comp. liberalismo y democracia.December 2008. num.Convergencia.

Locke. Chantal (2001). Samuel (1994). Mouffe. in Santana Rodríguez. Barcelona: Paidós. Chantal (1995). Historia. Mexico: Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. Filosofía. Pedro [comp. Montesquieu. num. 37 . “Las apuestas de la democracia”. Maestre. Thomas (1996). José (1997). El Leviatán. Mexico: Fontamara. num. Hobbes. “Límites y aporías de la democracia representativa en Norberto Bobbio”. Barcelona: Altaya. Gargarella. Colección Pensamiento Crítico. Barcelona: Anthropos. moderna o postmoderna”.]. 1. Gargarella. Teorías de la democracia. Charles-Louis (1963). José María and Fernando Quesada [coords. Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. “La política y los límites del liberalismo”. Hobbes y Rousseau. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica. José (1988). Teorías de la democracia. Barcelona. “Bases ideológicas del sistema político representativo”. Madrid: Trotta. José María and Fernando Quesada [coords. in Gonzáles. Mexico: Fontamara. Crawford (2005). La teoría política del individualismo posesivo: de Hobbes a Locke. Antonio (1991). Del espíritu de las leyes. Las teorías de la justicia después de Rawls. Las incertidumbres de la democracia. Mouffe. in Crisis de la representación política. John (1960). Huntington. in Estudios. Madrid: Aguilar. “La democracia radical. Letras.]. “Reflexión para una ética en democracia: discurso ético y utopía”. Barcelona: Paidós. in revista La Política. La tercera ola: la democratización a finales del siglo XX. Madrid: Alianza. Tratado sobre el gobierno. 24. Gonzáles. Roberto (1999). José María (1992). in Gonzáles. O la materia. Macpherson. Bogotá: Foro Nacional por Colombia. John (1973). Agapito (1992).Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. Roberto (1997). Pensamiento Utópico. Barcelona: Anthropos. Ocaña. Tratado sobre el gobierno. Liberalism and democracy from Norberto Bobbio’s perspective Fernández Santillán. Locke.]. forma y poder de una República eclesiástica y civil. Fernández Santillán. Entre la autocracia y la democracia. Filosofía política de la democracia. Madrid: Aguilar.

“Sobre el concepto de democracia mixta”. Popayán (2006). His main research lines are: democracy and political parties. Achille (1995). 2008 Approval: 6th July. Jean Jacques (1993). September .Convergencia. num. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales. Luis Antonio Córdoba Gómez. Mexico Occheto. Rousseau. Madrid: Aguilar. in Santana Rodríguez. Rosetti. Ruiz Miguel. He is coauthor of the texts “Las vueltas del presidente”. “Ahora la democracia está sola”. Alfonso (1983).]. He is author of the articles “Municipio colombiano y clientelización política local: apuntes para un balance”. Caracas: Nueva Sociedad.December 2008. within the agreement subscribed between the University of Caua and the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH). Joseph (1971). UAEMex. unpublished. candidate to Doctor in Contemporary Anthropologies. Bogotá: Foro Nacional por Colombia. in Anderson. 48. Popular Development of Cali Foundation (2000). socialismo y democracia. He holds a position as professor of the department of Philosophy at the University of Cauca. Liberalismo. socialismo liberal. discourses and imaginaries. Perry. and political culture. El contrato social. 2008 38 . Colombia. Barcelona: Altaya. Schumpeter. Filosofía y derecho en Norberto Bobbio. democracy and liberalism. “Contribuciones al debate sobre descentralización. representations. Giancarlo (1993). Popayán (2000). Pedro [comp. Capitalismo. socialismo. Cali (1994) and “Filosofía política: Crítica y balances”. Las incertidumbres de la democracia. apertura política y clientelismo en el municipio colombiano”. Sent to dictum: 08th October.

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