Quotable (#17)

From 2006, H. W. Arthurs reviews William Scheuerman’s Liberal Democracy and the Social Acceleration of Time:

Drawing heavily (but selectively) on the insights of Carl Schmitt – ‘Germany’s most impressive authoritarian right-wing political and legal theorist’ (xviii) – Scheuerman notes that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government are supposed not only to perform different functions but also to operate on different time horizons. Classic liberal-democratic theory contemplated, he says, that the legislature would take the long view: after protracted debate, it would enact future-oriented public policies in the form of carefully drafted laws. By contrast with the legislature’s slow procedures and future orientation, the executive is expected to act expeditiously and expediently to deal with issues in (as we would now say) real time. Finally, the judiciary – with its focus on the assessment of past conduct and on principles and rules embedded in existing codes, precedents, and statutes – would operate relatively slowly, like the legislature, but with a retrospective rather than a forward orientation. However, with the acceleration of ‘social time’ as a result of technology, capitalism, interstate competition, modernity, Weberian rationality, and other causes, it has become increasingly difficult for each branch to perform its assigned role in accordance with the temporal assumptions of classic liberal-democratic theory.

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