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The purpose of Boston Review's New Democracy Forum is to foster politically engaged, intellectually honest, and morally serious debate about fundamental issues of the day--both on and off the agenda of conventional politics--and to say something about how we might better address them.

The project grows out of political convictions, a practical premise, and a sense of urgent need.

Our convictions are egalitarian, radical democratic, and culturally pluralist. We want a world with greater socio-economic equality, in which life chances do not reflect the morally irrelevant differences among us. We want a world with more participation by citizens in running their common affairs, in which the exercise of political power is shaped by our common reason rather than accumulations of private resources. And we want a world in which equal citizens acknowledge the diversity of decent ways to live, rather than seek to fit all human life into a single authoritative pattern.

Our practical premise is that the active pursuit of these convictions requires well-founded confidence in their soundness and rational defensibility. That is, it requires confidence that justice demands a democracy more egalitarian, participatory, and culturally pluralist than our own, and that these political values are rooted in reason, not mere preference or practical convenience.

Our urgent sense of need is to translate these values into a realistic program suited to current circumstances. John Stuart Mill, the great 19th-century egalitarian-liberal, once said that the major problem in the future would be to "unite the greatest individual liberty of action with a common ownership of the globe, and an equal participation by all in the benefits of combined labor." In the current climate, this hopeful outlook can hardly be stated in public without risking abuse and ridicule. And while egalitarian democrats spend much time re-describing problems, criticizing the deficiencies of current policies, exposing the interests that lie behind those policies, and calling public attention to the scandals and corruptions of current politics, they have done less well in stating or debating their own practical, constructive alternatives to them.

The basic purpose of the New Democracy Forum is to offer an arena for such statement and debate. Though analysis, criticism, exposé and revelation will have their place, our principal aim is to advance some new ideas about how to improve life in this country, and to get these ideas discussed in a more demanding and honest way than conventional political arenas permit. More particularly:

New Democracy Forum will be intellectually open-ended. Confidence that the force of the better argument is on our side won't come by confining debate to people with whom we already agree.

Contributions will feature arguments from explicit and plausible premises, presented in clean, crisp, jargon-free prose. We hope to make our commitment to shared human reason manifest in the Forum's style as well as its substance.

The Forum will include intellectuals and activists. Without strong activist presence, political argument lacks the discipline born of practical connection. At the same time, we think that activism should be informed by whatever contemporary science and philosophy can contribute to clarifying the terms and premises of debate.

Our project, then, is to create a forum devoted to debate about basics-organized with a practical intent, featuring robust argument about politics and policy, in which egalitarian-democratic convictions provide the center of gravity of the debate, if not its outer bounds.

-- Joel Rogers and Joshua Cohen


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