Democratic Equality: What Went Wrong?


263 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8332-3
DDC 323




Edited by Edward Broadbent
Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science and
environmental studies at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial
University of Newfoundland.


In recent decades, the welfare state, which brought some degree of
equality to the Western world, has been under attack. The contributors
to Democratic Equality, generally inspired by the ideal of equality of
condition, provide a strong defence of universal social programs as
essential for a truly democratic community.

With even social democratic parties praising the virtues of the free
market and limited government, this defence of equality and the welfare
state may seem anachronistic. Indeed, the popular themes of the
contemporary left, such as feminism, environmentalism, and various forms
of identity politics, generally take a back seat in this book to the
less-fashionable analysis of class, economic inequality, and welfare.
Nevertheless, the questions of whether democracy requires a measure of
social equality and whether neoliberal policies are undermining the
basis of democratic communities are of continuing importance.

The fairly short articles in this collection, edited by former NDP
leader Ed Broadbent are thought-provoking and for the most part suitable
for a general audience. Although the collection’s focus is on Canada,
it is enriched by the contributions based on American, British, and
European experiences. More attention, however, might have been given to
the problems that globalization poses for the pursuit of democratic
equality and to the reasons for the vulnerability of the welfare state
to public criticism. As well, further discussion of alternatives to
neoliberal policies would have been useful. Nevertheless, Democratic
Equality provides an important perspective on contemporary politics.


“Democratic Equality: What Went Wrong?,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,