Hans Kelsen is commonly associated with legal theory and philosophy of law. Democracy in Its Essence: Hans Kelsen as a Political Thinker instead investigates Kelsen’s democratic theory as it developed between the 1920s and 1950s, which challenged the existence of democracies in many different respects. Kelsen provided a critical reflection on the strengths and problems of living within a democratic system, while also defending it against a series of specific targets: from the Soviet regime and Bolshevism to European Fascisms, from religious-based conceptions of politics to those claiming a perfect identity between capitalism and classical liberal institutions, and chiefly against all those ideologies claiming to possess objective understanding of what true freedom and true democracy signify. By seeking what he defined as the “essence” and “value” of democracy, Kelsen elaborated a pluralist, relativist, constitutional, proceduralist, and liberal theory of representative democracy, characterized by a strong recall to the values of tolerance, responsibility, and respect toward “the other” as well as to the idea of politics as space for compromise. In this book, Sara Lagi reconstructs his political theory as a relevant contribution to the twentieth-century liberal-democratic tradition of thought, while representing a stimulating reflection on the meaning and implication of democracy both as a political system and as a form of co-existence.
Sara Lagi is associate professor of history of political thought at the University of Turin.
Chapter One: Democracy and Pluralism
Chapter Two: Democracy and Constitution
Chapter Three: Democracy and Relativism
Chapter Four: Democracy and Proceduralism
Sara Lagi's book offers a serious, clear and very elegant introduction to Hans Kelsen's theory of democracy. The English-speaking public did not yet have a work like this within their reach, which was unfortunate for an author who was not only a great jurist but also a leading political thinker in the twentieth century, as Lagi's book proves."
Sara Lagi's book takes into consideration the democratic theory of one of the most relevant legal and political theorists of the past century, and identifies four main themes of his theory: pluralism, constitutionalism, relativism, and proceduralism. I consider this work as a well-balanced and thoroughly documented piece of academic research. Therefore it can be highly recommended to anyone interested in reading an effective overview of Kelsen’s political thought.
Democracy in its Essence: Hans Kelsen as a Political Thinker, is an important book-length study of why Kelsen deserves to be re-read in the twenty-first century.