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Manuel Arias Maldonado

Sentimental Democracy URL:

We will look into the populist infection that liberal representative democracies are suffering, locating this tendency towards irrational sentimentalization of the citizens' demands in the widest context that is provided by the current questioning that psychology and close disciplines make of the enlightened assumption that individuals act as the rational maximum of their own preferences. It is a hypothesis that also affects other disciplines like economy and ethics, obliging them to review their initial assumptions confronted with the increasingly powerful evidence of individual rationality being measured by the emotions and different biases or gaps in the rational decision. This sentimentalization of democracy can be presented in regards to the new tools of political communication, which have proved to be used more often as vehicles for expression than as a tool for persuasion.

However it may be, it would be inexact to assert that the enlightened political theory has historically ignored this problem. Which is, after all, the same problem of domesticating the human beings that Sloterdijk highlighted in his confrontation with Heidegger and Habermas more than a decade ago. Authors like David Hume already pointe out with clarity that the human reason can be very well seen as an instrument at the service of the passions. From here we have the fact that the enlightened concept of subjectivity should be claimed -confronted, by the way, with the communal tradition- as a prescription instead of as a simple description. Consequently, the autonomy of the individual should be defended as an indispensable regulative idea, for whose promotion we need to find new instruments.

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