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Chapter 2 The Democratic Ideal.

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1 Chapter 2 The Democratic Ideal

2 Outline/Goals Original meaning of “democracy”
Main features of republican tradition from Aristotle to Polybius to the American founding Rise, decline, and revival of democratic ideal from ancient Greece to present How meaning of democracy has changed over course of Western history Main conceptions of democracy in twentieth century – liberal democracy, social democracy, and people’s democracy Democracy as an essentially contested concept Democracy as an ideal and different conceptions of democracy held by competing ideologies

3 Original Meaning of “Democracy”
Our word “democracy” comes from two Greek words: demos meaning, “people,” or “common people” kratein, “to rule” Demoskratia originally meant “rule or government by the common people” Common people = uneducated, unsophisticated, poor since the common people constituted a numerical majority, democracy came to be associated with the idea of majority rule

4 Democracy in Ancient Greece (c. 5-4 B.C.E)
Majority consisted mainly of the demos Many Greeks understood democracy as a system of class rule rule by one class, the demos, in its own interest often in opposition to the interests of other classes, including the aristoi = “the best” source of our word aristocracy, “rule by those few who are best qualified to govern” Greek democracy operated in self-governing city-state, polis

5 Early Greek Democracy Tension between aristocrats and democrats
Aristocrats believed only well-established citizens with substantial property and ties to noble families were fit to rule Democrats (e.g., Pericles) believed most citizens were capable of governing Seemingly very democratic… Direct vote by citizens (paid) to take part in assembly Paid jury duty Random selection of office holders While also very “undemocratic” (by modern standards)… Restricted citizenship = adult, free, males (Athens: 1/10 citizens) right to vote and hold public office denied to women, resident aliens (metics), and slaves no legally guaranteed rights of freedom of speech, press, and assembly Citizens who publicly expressed unpopular views could, by a majority vote in the Athenian Assembly, be banished (ostracized) from the city and forced into exile, or even executed

6 Socrates ( B.C.E.) Teacher/friend of Plato; philosophical gadfly Executed in 399 B.C.E. for daring to question certain popularly held religious and political views Accused of religious impiety and corrupting the morals of the youth Critical about the value of democracy Argued questions about truth cannot be decided by majority vote First martyr to cause of free thought and free speech

7 Plato ( B.C.E.) Best-known work, The Republic, criticizes democracy; paints memorable picture of ideal state ruled by a wise “philosopher-king” Democracy was a dangerously unstable form of government Puts power into the hands of ignorant and envious people who will not use political power for the common good Envy makes them pursue private interest and plunder others who are better off Ignorance makes them susceptible to flattering demagogues who turn citizens against one another Gives rise to civil war and anarchy, disorder People seeking order give power to a despot, which leads to tyranny

8 Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) Student of Plato
Took a somewhat more favorable view of democracy although he too believed it to be a factious, unstable, and short-lived system of government Demos tend to be shortsighted and selfish; pursue own interests by taking property, wealth, and power from the few with little regard for the whole, which leads to chaos and despotism/tyranny 6-part classification scheme (Figure 2.1, p. 22) Best system, he argued in Politics, would be a system of “rule by the many,” or polity, which aims at promoting the public good, not the individual or class interests of one faction or another

9 Aristotle’s Polity Polity mixes elements of rule by the few with rule by the many Each keeps eye on the other; neither class can pursue its interest at the expense of the common good Polity may depend on distribution of wealth Democracies, the many are usually poor Rare but fortunate circumstances, the many will be neither rich nor poor (neither arrogant or envious) and will have moderate and sufficient property, “middle class” and they will rule prudently in the common interest Common good will be their own good, middling middle will work to maintain moderation, peace, and stability Greek city-states and rule by the many (democracy or polity) destroyed by rise of Hellenic Empire under Alexander the Great Idea of mixed constitution or republic (from the Latin res publica, meaning “the public thing” or “the public business”) picked up and developed by later Greek and Roman thinkers, including Polybius ( B.C.E.)

10 Republic and Mixed Government
Greek historian, Polybius, in Histories, argues Roman Republic’s success due to mixed government Government constituted by different classes and interests Neither the one, the few, or the many held all the power Republic mixed or balanced these sets of interests; divided power among them People (many) exercised power/influence through the assemblies Aristocrats (few) through the Senate Executive Consuls (“one”) put policies into effect Out of competition/compromise came close approximation to the public good Republic a form of popular government Not democracy (self-interested rule of common people) which promoted vice Republic promoted virtue = ability to rise above personal/class interest to place good of whole above one’s own Requires active citizens eager to exercise liberty and wary of person/group who wishes to seize power Mixed government encourages popular participation while making it difficult for any person/group to threaten liberty and common good

11 Democracy’s Long Sleep
Further development of idea that best system of government was rule by the people stifled by… Demise of the Roman Republic Triumph of the tyrannical Caesars, Rome ceased to be a popularly-governed republic, became despotical and militarily expansionist empire 1500 years later, republican ideal revived in Northern Italian city-states during Renaissance 1900 years later, democratic ideal revived Rise of Christianity Worldly matters—including political matters—are much less important than otherworldly ones, especially salvation Political message: obey those in power and seek no power yourself Middle Ages and feudalism (highly stratified society)

12 Rebirth of Democracy and Republicanism
Italian Renaissance (14-16th centuries) Rebirth of classical learning and political ideas and ideals Drawing on Aristotle, Polybius, examples of Rome and Sparta, Renaissance republicans argued for revival of civic life in which public-spirited citizens could take part in governing Key themes: liberty, virtue, and corruption Renaissance writer who did more than anyone else to revive and defend the idea of republican government was Niccolo Machiavelli ( )

13 Machiavelli ( ) Best known work, The Prince In his Discourses (1531), Machiavelli defends the republican ideals of mixed government, virtuous citizenry, and the rule of law Advocates a system of popular rule by a virtuous and vigilant citizenry bent on protecting their liberty Greatest danger to republican or self-government comes from corruption—tendency to turn away from attending to the common good and turn inward toward private or individual interest Liberty/self-government not for lazy, selfish or corrupt Only for citizens steeped in self-discipline, love of country, civic virtue, and respect for the law Only under “a government of laws, not men,” could citizens remain free Preferred a mixed constitutional republic over pure/direct democracy Machiavelli’s vision inspired Atlantic republican tradition

14 Atlantic Republican Tradition
Machiavelli’s republican ideals influential in 17th century England James Harrington ( ) argued popular self-government could be both stable and just Called on Cromwell to create mixed or “balanced” system of government Land redistribution to promote liberty; popular elections to promote republican virtue and protect against power of incumbency

15 Atlantic Democratic Tradition
17th century England also saw return of democracy, at least as an inspirational ideal During English Civil War of the 1640s Levellers (e.g., John Lilburne) and Diggers (e.g., Gerrard Winstanley) Called for creation of democracy all political authority grounded in popular consent called for extension of franchise to all adult males Rule by and for the benefit of the common people At about the same time, in the new English colony of America, dissident puritans (e.g., Roger Williams) preached that because all people were equal in God’s eyes, they were equally entitled to govern themselves in a “democratical” way

16 Late 18th-19th Centuries Prior, democracy a dissident—and, to some, a dangerous—form of government Usually equated with mob rule Only in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries did democracy finally become respectable In the United States, the democratic ideal was altered by the republican tradition, with its emphasis on balanced government, the rule of law, and the protection of civil rights

17 U.S. A Democratic Republic
From the beginning, favored form of government . was republican Separation of powers/checks and balances Modification of mixed or balanced government Executive = the one; legislative = many; judicial = few Bill of Rights Popular element checked and controlled by the Senate, the courts, and the president Era of “Jacksonian democracy” removed property qualifications for voting and expanded political equality/democracy

18 Tocqueville ( ) In Democracy in America, de Tocqueville argues that while democracy frees the common people, its overbearing emphasis on equality threatens to produce mediocrity or despotism, or both Emphasis on equality produced pressures to conform, “tyranny of the majority” Common people easily swayed by demagogues who flatter and mislead them to gain power Positive possibility for democracy (republicanism combined with the democratic ideal) Civic virtue, ability to see and serve the common interest, promoted through participation in public affairs

19 Growth of Democracy Democracy continued to grow in popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries Urbanization, spread of education, improvements in communication and transportation contributed to belief that common people could participate knowledgeably in public affairs Democracy was defended on two grounds – self protection and self-development Utilitarians called for representative democracy Mill felt democracy would strengthen public virtue and promote individual development

20 Democracy As An Ideal Most ideologies pursue and promote democracy, but they do so in different ways because they disagree on what it is Democracy is not a specific kind of government, it is an ideal = something toward which people aim or aspire Democracy is government or rule by the people, but… Who are the people? How are the people to rule? Democracy is attractive because it implies that citizens are free and equal, but what this means is unclear All ideologies must come to terms with the democratic ideal Their conception of human nature and freedom determines whether it is possible, desirable, and what form it should take

21 20th C. Conceptions of Democracy
Liberal Democracy Social Democracy People’s Democracy

22 Liberal Democracy Emerged from Liberalism
Characterizes most Western democracies Rule by the people Stresses protection of individual rights and liberties Majority rule must be limited Majority rule as long as the majority does not deprive individuals or minorities of basic civil rights

23 Social Democracy Social democratic/democratic socialist
Linked with Socialism Main challenger to Liberal Democracy among Western Democracies Share with liberals emphasis on protection of civil liberties and fair competition for office, but believe people cannot be free and political competition fair with great inequalities of wealth and power Key to democracy is equality Equal power in society and government Equal power/influence in politics/government requires a more equal distribution of economic power/resources Program: redistribution of wealth to promote equality, public financing of campaigns and elections, public control over natural resources and major industries, worker’s control in the workplace

24 People’s Democracy Prevailing view of democracy in communist societies
Rule by the common people (proletariat/ working class) closer to original Greek idea of democracy Democracy means rule by and for the benefit of the numerically largest social class In modern industrial society this class is the working class, or what Marx called the proletariat Differences within communist ideologies as to how this rule is actualized In most (China, Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea), it means rule by the Communist Party Mao’s “people’s democratic dictatorship” People’s democracies rule in the interest of the working class, and thereby claim to be democracies, and even more democratic than liberal or social democracies

25 An Essentially Contested Concept
While almost universally popular, democracy is a term (like freedom) whose meaning is deeply disputed Different people, adhering to different ideologies, define democracy in quite different ways Splits/divisions even within ideologies – among liberals, conservatives, Marxists, etc. For some, the concept is closely connected with a particular social class; for others it is not For some, democracy means not only majority rule, but the protection of minority rights; for others, it means nothing of the sort

26 Democracy as an Ideal Democracy is not itself an ideology, but an ideal—an aim or aspiration—that different ideologies define in different and sometimes radically divergent ways It is an ideal that most ideologies espouse Just what those ideologies are, and how they define democracy and allied notions such as liberty (or freedom), we will discuss throughout the quarter

27 Discussion Questions Why were the ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle convinced that democracy was a bad form of government? Do you find their arguments persuasive? Explain. What have Machiavelli and other political theorists meant by the term republic? How, if at all, is a republic different from a democracy? Is the United States best described as a democracy, a republic, or a democratic republic? Explain and defend your position. What were the 3 principal conceptions of democracy in the twentieth century? How do they differ from one another, and which, in your view, is the best way of thinking about democracy? Ball and Dagger maintain that democracy is not an ideology but an ideal. Why do they say this? Are they right or wrong? Does it make sense to say that democracy is an ideology? Why or why not?

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