Democracy and Possessive Individualism

The Intellectual Legacy of C. B. Macpherson

Edited by Joseph H. Carens

Subjects: Political Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues
Paperback : 9780791414583, 298 pages, September 1993
Hardcover : 9780791414576, 298 pages, September 1993

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Chapter 1 Possessive Individualism and Democratic Theory: Macpherson's Legacy
Joseph H. Carens

Chapter 2 The Possessive Individualism Thesis: A Reconsideration in the Light of Recent Scholarship
James Tully

Chapter 3 Equality as Egoism
Louise Marcil-Lacoste

Chapter 4 The Individualist/Holist Debate and Bentham's Claim to Sociological and Psychological Realism
Nancy L. Rosenblum

Chapter 5 Stretching the Limits of the Democratic Imagination
John Keane

Chapter 6 Freedom and Feminism
Virginia Held

Chapter 7 Macpherson's Neglect of the Political
Jane Mansbridge

Chapter 8 Liberalism and Modern Democracy
Chantal Mouffe

Chapter 9 Democracy and Contingency
William E. Connolly

Chapter 10 The Signifiers of Democracy
Ernesto Laclau

Chapter 11 Property and Democracy
Mihailo Markovic

Editor's Note by Joseph H. Carens
A Reply by Mihailo Markovic

Chapter 12 The End of History and Its Beginning Again; or, The Not-Quite-Yet Human Stage of Human History
William Leiss

Selected Bibliography




C. B. Macpherson was one of the leading political theorists in North America and perhaps the most influential voice on the left for a view of liberal democracy that was simultaneously sympathetic to its aspirations and critical of its achievements. His work provides the contributors to this volume with a common starting point from which to reflect upon the possibilities for critical perspectives on liberal democracy in light of the demise of its Marxist rival. The volume as a whole addresses the following questions: What (if anything) remains valid in previous left critiques of liberal democracy (including Marxist critiques)? And what new critical and constructive alternatives can the left offer to challenge the status quo? The contributors to this volume, from both the Anglo-American and Continental traditions, include Joseph Carens, William Connolly, Virginia Held, John Keane, Ernesto Laclau, William Leiss, Jane Mansbridge, Louise Marcil-Lacoste, Mihailo Markovic, Chantal Mouffe, Nancy Rosenblum, and James Tully.

Joseph H. Carens is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Equality, Moral Incentives and the Market.


"Macpherson's work continues to animate the literature of contemporary political theory, and his arguments have had a pervasive influence on current conversations. An impressive group of scholars has been brought together to address his work, and they not only illuminate his ideas but, in responding to his claims, offer important claims of their own. These are strong essays in their own right, and a focused discussion of Macpherson is a most worthwhile project." — John G. Gunnell, State University of New York, University at Albany

"Macpherson's work is well worth a retrospective and this collection makes even more of the work's significance than might have been anticipated. It will be very useful to scholars of twentieth-century political thought." — David Braybrooke, University of Texas at Austin