Liberal theory and practice in Switzerland between aristocratisation and the demand for more democracy

Liberal theory and practice in Switzerland between aristocratisation and the demand for more democracy

Book announcement
Direct democracy is a central component of political culture in Switzerland like in no other country, but little historical research has been done in the matter so far. For this reason, the Research Institute for Direct Democracy has been established, which wants to close the research gaps with academic conferences, publications and lectures. Volume 1 devoted itself to the contributions Catholicism has made to the birth of modern Switzerland and the development of direct democracy. Volume 2 now deals with liberalism.
The idea of the liberal state is rooted in the times of Enlightenment and the French Revolution. These were reflec­ted in the guiding principles of the Swiss constitution. Together with the promotion of compulsory schooling, liberalism in the 19th century had a lasting impact on the further democratic development in Switzerland. However, liberal theory and practice, with their tendency to aristocratisation, were always in danger of negating modern natural law and of favouring a utilitarian principle in its place.
The conference, which brought together the present texts, gathered renowned experts on the topic and, based on the panels “Theoretical foundations of liberalism” and “Liberal debates – representative versus direct democracy”, presented new research results. Although the relationship between Swiss liberalism and direct democracy – the main topic of the conference – used to be ambivalent and conflict-laden, both approaches cross-fertilised and became, in practice, important components of modern Switzerland. Thus, the second volume undoubtedly brings light into research desiderata and makes a further important contribution to the development of democracy research. Volume 3 will then deal with the topic “Early socialism and modern Switzerland“.

The Editor

René Roca is a graduated historian and grammar school teacher in Basel. He is the founder and head of the Research Institute for Direct Democracy ( He regularly publishes on the topics of direct democracy, natural law and the cooperative principle.


  • Elisabeth Kopp and René Roca: Vorwort (Foreword)
  • René Roca: Liberalismus und direkte Demokratie. Theorie und Praxis in der Schweiz. Eine Einleitung (Liberalism and direct democracy. Theory and practice in Switzerland. An introduction)
  • Paul Widmer: Abweisung der direkten Demokratie in den Ursprüngen der politischen Philosophie des Liberalismus (Rejection of direct democracy in the origins of the political philosophy of liberalism, Emmanuel Joseph Sièyes, Benjamin Constant)
  • Robert Nef: Zaccaria Giacometti und Friedrich August von Hayek. Wie kompatibel ist der klassische Liberalismus mit der Demokratie? (Zaccaria Giacometti and Friedrich August von Hayek. How compatible is classical liberalism with democracy?
  • Werner Ort: Heinrich Zschokke  auf der Suche nach der ’richtigen‘ Demokratie (Heinrich Zschokke in search of ‘real’ democracy)
  • Daniel Annen: Die Schweiz – ein liberaler Staat. Aber wie? Demokratische Strukturen für die Eidgenossenschaft bei Kant, Schiller, Ragaz und Inglin (Switzerland – a liberal state. But how? Democratic structures for the Confederation at Kant, Schiller, Ragaz and Inglin)

Beiträge zur Erforschung der Demokratie 2
René Roca (Ed.)
Liberalismus und moderne Schweiz.
2017. Approx. 160 pages, 30 illustrations -Softbound. Approximately SFr. 48.-/euro 48.-, ISBN 978-3-7965-3639-7
Order from Dr René Roca.

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