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By the time Marx began writing his critique of bourgeois democracy in the early 1840s, the concept of democracy had already travelled a long way in its life and had changed its meaning significantly. This chapter begins by briefly tracing the journey of democracy from its Athenian roots to its present-day form as liberal democracy. It continues by examining Marx’s powerful critique of bourgeois democracy and his vision of a future communist, democratic society. The main conclusion is that much can still be learned from Marx’s theory of democracy. First, his critique of bourgeois democracy is a powerful reminder that liberal democracy is not democracy per se but is a historically specific form of democracy which capitalism has both facilitated and constrained. Without this historical specificity, it is difficult to envisage an alternative to liberal democracy. Second, the ways in which any alternative can be put into practice will result, not from abstract theorising, but from the practical application of Marxist theory to the reality around us.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMarx and Other Four-Letter Words
EditorsGeorgina Blakeley, Valerie Bryson
PublisherPluto Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780745322520, 9780745322537
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2005

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