by Jørn Loftager was published in June 2004.
267 p., DKK
Order at Aarhus University Press: www.unipress.dk or +45 8942 5370
If the essential ideal of democracy is that political decisions should be based on a free and open public debate, then how is the Danish democracy doing in light of that ideal?
The book attempts to answer this question via analyses on different levels, and the general picture is ambiguous. Seen over time, there is no doubt that the Danish democracy has become stronger. Due to the extension of individual rights, increasing socio-economic equality and a significantly higher level of education, an equal status of citizenship has become still more pronounced. Regarding access to information, the opportunity to be heard, the level of political participation and democratic conviction, the historical development speaks of progress rather than decay.
There are also negative trends: Current trends in both welfare and educational policies could potentially weaken the role as citizen. The political parties concentrate to a still larger extent on the struggle for votes and positions as separate goals, and the mass media operate according to their own news criteria regardless of what is socially relevant. As a result, the basis for public reasoning threatens to weaken political rationality. Moreover, a legislative practice has evolved that prevents the influence of public reasoning.
The conclusion is that there is a discrepancy between existing potentials of democracy and the capacity of the political system to realize these potentials.