On the Deep Unsustainability of Actually Existing Liberal Democracy

19 Pages Posted: 22 May 2014 Last revised: 29 Jan 2015

See all articles by Fred Peter Gale

Fred Peter Gale

School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania

Date Written: 2014


A number of worrying recent reports indicate that the Earth is undergoing interlinked social, economic and ecological crises linked to intra- and inter-state inequality, financial instability and climate change. Past ‘solutions’ based on eco-development and sustainable development are being superseded by a focus on ‘sustainability’, a term that does not presume ‘development’ or ‘growth’ and appears to require deep integration across space, time, disciplines and interests. The emergence of sustainability poses tough questions for the theory and practice of liberal democracy, based as the latter on the principle of fragmentation including individualism, territorialism, nationalism and partisanship. This paper critically evaluates the adequacy of ‘actual existing liberal democracy’ from a sustainability perspective. Based on the case of Australia, it highlights the deep unsustainability of the country’s constitutional founding and political economy and how such unsustainability is periodically renewed via the structure and operation of parliamentary and executive government.

Suggested Citation

Gale, Fred Peter, On the Deep Unsustainability of Actually Existing Liberal Democracy (2014). The Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference, University of Sydney Paper​, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2440366 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2440366

Fred Peter Gale (Contact Author)

School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania ( email )

L113 Faculty of Arts Building
Newnham Campus
Launceston, Tasmania 7250

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics