Conclusion: Liberal Democracy’s Shortcomings and Overriding Advantage

  • Noel Calhoun


Ideology is like a plot formula for politics. A recipe for a romance novel provides the author with an ending (happily ever after) and a set of ordinary means toward that end (man rescues woman). Likewise, an ideology organizes our thoughts about politics over time. It defines an end (the political good) and the means for attaining it (e.g., revolution, war, or negotiations). Ideology is thus as useful to politicians as the plot formula is to the budding novelist. It helps to economize on effort and to focus the imagination. A certain end is given, and the acceptable means are outlined. This hardly means that ideology is a rigid template for political action. One plot formula gives rise to shelf upon shelf of variations on the theme, as any trip to the public library will attest. Similarly, ideology awaits the creative politician and the interpretive public. It is flexible and malleable, though not limitlessly so.


Procedural Justice Restorative Justice Liberal Democracy Transitional Justice Democratic Transition 
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  1. 1.
    See Ackerman, The Future of Liberal Revolution, 70–98; Jon Elster, “On Doing What One Can: An Argument against Postcommunist Restitution and Retribution,” Eastern European Constitutional Review, 1, 2 (1992): 15– 17.Google Scholar
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    Barton L. Ingraham, The Structure of Criminal Procedure: Laws and Practice of France, the Soviet Union, China, and the United States (New York: Greenwood, 1987), 61.Google Scholar
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    For a similar argument, see Carlos Santiago Nino, Radical Evil on Trial (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 187–189.Google Scholar
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    On the abuses in Chechnya and the climate of impunity, see Human Rights Watch, “Last Seen …: Continued Disappearances in Chechnya” (April 2002) and “Swept Under: Torture, Forced Disappearances and Extrajudicial Killings during Sweep Operations in Chechnya” (February 2002); on impunity among the police, see Amnesty International, “Dokumenty! Discrimination on Grounds of Race in the Russian Federation” (London: Amnesty International Publications, 2003); on corruption, see David E. Hoffman, The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia (New York: PublicAffairs, 2002).Google Scholar
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    See the collected volumes on transitional justice around the world, e.g., McAdams Transitional Justice; Kritz, Transitional Justice, Barahona de Brito et al., The Politics of Memory; Henry Steiner, ed., Truth Commissions: A Comparative Assessment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, 1997).Google Scholar

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© Noel Calhoun 2004

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  • Noel Calhoun

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