C. B. Macpherson on democracy, liberalism and the market society

“So democracy came as a late addition to the competitive market society and the liberal state. The point of recalling this is, of course, to emphasize that democracy came as an adjunct to the competitive liberal society and state. It is not simply that democracy came later. It is also that democracy in these societies was demanded, and was admitted, on competitive liberal grounds. Democracy was demanded, and admitted, on the ground that it was unfair not to have it in a competitive society. It was something the competitive society logically needed. This is not to say that all the popular movements whose pressures resulted in the democratic franchise, and all the writers whose advocacy helped their cause, were devotees of the market society. But the bulk of them were. The main demand was for the franchise as the logical completion of the competitive market society.

In short, by the time democracy came, in the present liberal-democratic countries, it was no longer opposed to the liberal society and the liberal state. It was, by then, not an attempt by the lower class to overthrow the liberal state of the competitive market economy; it was an attempt by the lower class to take their fully and fairly competitive place within those institutions and that system of society. Democracy had been transformed. From a threat to the liberal state it had become a fulfilment of the liberal state.”