Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 May 2010
This book is based upon the Seeley Lectures delivered in Cambridge in 2006. Pierre Rosanvallon, who is a Professor, both at the Collège de France and at the Raymond Aron Centre for Political Research in Paris, has attracted much attention in France and elsewhere for his work on the intellectual history of French politics since the Revolution, on contemporary questions of social justice, and on the definition and trajectory of modern democracy. His historical studies of French politics, incorporating a fundamental and pioneering re-evaluation of French liberalism, include Le Moment Guizot (1985). His examination of contemporary problems of social justice is most powerfully represented by La Nouvelle Question sociale: Repenser L'État-providence (1995), which was translated into English in 2000 as The New Social Question: Rethinking the Welfare State. His third area of concern, work most relevant to the present volume, has focused upon the intellectual history of democracy in France. This has been published as a trilogy: Le Sacre du citoyen: Histoire du suffrage universel en France (1992); Le Peuple introuvable: Histoire de la représentation démocratique en France (1998); and La Démocratie inachevée: Histoire de la souveraineté du peuple en France (2000).
Rosanvallon believes that there are significant differences between American and European conceptions of democracy, dating back to the second half of the nineteenth century. In the United States, democracy has been viewed from a globally fundamentalist perspective and treated as a unique, universal, and intrinsically good political form, destined to spread throughout the world, once offered to its different peoples.