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This book examines the interplay between political values and the health and stability of today’s liberal democracies. It examines a set of core political values by drawing on the insights and arguments of leading political theorists past and present. The new democracies are represented by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, and the established democracies by Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. The study uses data from the 1990 and 1995-7 World Values Surveys. Statistical analyses provide strong support for the theoretical claims of John Rawls and others that such liberal virtues as tolerance, trust, independence, and responsibility are conducive to democratic stability and to a more robust version of citizenship that goes well beyond the unfettered pursuit of private interests. Instead, this study argues that individuals who score high on the index of liberal virtues are more likely to discuss politics, to participate in politics, to resist authority, to view democracy as the best form of governance, and to demand equality of opportunity for all. This bridging of classical normative theory and contemporary empirical analysis in this work represents a much-needed contribution to scholarship in both political theory and comparative politics.


“The strength of Kenney’s manuscript can be found in the breadth of case study comparison, and also in the impressive ability to interpret World Values Survey data and to present statistical analysis of public opinion polling in a clear and digestible manner….some of Kenney’s suggestions, especially regarding the role of religion and income inequality in differing national contexts, offer new paths of inquiry regarding the subject of democracy and democratic values….a readable, intelligent, and sound analysis of the theory of liberal democracy and its reflection in different national political cultures. It is well-organized, and his argument flows smoothly from one chapter to the next, with each chapter clearly building upon the previous ones and leading to a set of conclusions that are solidly supported by the research.” – Dr. James D. Huck, Jr., Tulane University, Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Department of Political Science.

“Building on the work of Guillermo O’Donnell, Samuel Huntington, and Ronald Inglehart, Matthew Kenney has produced an important defense of liberal rights, ideas, and culture….Considering the current political and economic crises in Argentina and Venezuela, and recent developments in Peru and Brazil, this work is especially timely. By answering the important objections to a liberal view of democracy, Kenney moves the conversation forward to how to foster and build upon those virtues in emerging democracies.” – Anil Hira, Department of Political Science and Latin American Studies, Simon Fraser University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Foreword; Preface; Introduction
1. Liberal Virtues: Theory and Methods
2. New and Old Democracies
3. Liberal Virtues and the Liberal Character
4. Liberal Virtues and the Resistance to Authority
5. Liberal Virtues and Individual Rights
6. Liberal Virtues and the Commitment to Democracy
7. Conclusions
Bibliography; Index

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