Publication Details

Melleuish, G. (2018). Democracy, liberalism and the challenge of social solidarity. Social Sciences, 7 (7), 110-1-110-12.


This paper examines modern democracy from the perspective of its capacity to generate social solidarity. To do so it considers the idea of asabiya, first used by Ibn Khaldûn and more recently applied by Peter Turchin. It postulates that this approach is quite similar to the analysis made by Roman historian Sallust. It considers the issue of the creation and decay of asabiya in the context of Benjamin Constant's distinction between ancient and modern liberty. Ancient liberty seeks to generate asabiya and this has tended to make democracies a belligerent form of polity. Modern liberty and liberalism are happy to leave individuals to cultivate their own garden. This means that while modern democracy, which can be understood as the form of democracy founded on modern liberty, has some belligerent features it tends towards favoring peace. This raises a problem for modern liberal forms of democracy as they face difficulty in creating social solidarity and opponents who can create asabiya and the aggression that goes with it.



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