ENS de Lyon, TRIANGLE UMR 5206, et Duke University, Center for the History of Political Economy
Abstract: Neoliberals are often accused of being anti-democratic theorists. Buchanan, among them, has been particularly targeted as one of the instigators of anti-democratic movements in the United-States. This article shows, through the specific example of Buchanan, how this narrative leads to a misinterpretation of the relationship between neoliberal theorists and democracy. Far from simply criticizing democracy as a tyranny of the majority or as leading to situations of negative cooperation, Buchanan proposed a new conception of liberal democracy as a Constitutional democracy. The democratic ideal of a political society respecting individual autonomy would thus be compatible only with a limited form of democracy, protecting the members of the political society from the inflation of Leviathan power. In this article, I thus show how a neoliberal conception of democracy emerges from a normative contractualist social and political philosophy that legitimizes the establishment of constitutional rules that limit democracy while remaining consistent with the democratic ideal.
Keywords: Neoliberalism, Buchanan, Democracy, Political Philosophy, Rules.