Democracy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
What is the relationship between democracy and desire, and what critical role Finally, I will examine Plato's notion of the 'philosopher' class, discussing an. main insights of one of the greatest philosophers and democracy theorists . relationship between democracy and education on the one hand, and the iden-. Introduction to the Philosophy of Education”, which means that it is more description of the empirical relations between “democracy” on one.
The epistemological argument seems to presuppose a far too restrictive conception of justification to be plausible. Many beliefs are justified for me even if they are not compatible with the political beliefs I currently hold as long as those beliefs can be vindicated by the use of procedures and methods of thinking that I use to evaluate beliefs.
The conception of respect for reason in the moral argument seems not obviously to favor the principle of reasonableness. It may require that I do as much as I can to make sure that the society I live in conform to what I take to be rationally defensible norms. Of course, I may also believe that such a society must be democratically organized in which case I will attempt to advance these principles through the democratic process.
Moreover, it is hard to see how this approach avoids the need for a complete consensus, which is highly unlikely to occur in any even moderately diverse society. The reason for this is that it is not clear why it is any less of an imposition on me when I propose legislation or policies for the society that I must restrain myself to considerations that other reasonable people accept than it is an imposition on others when I attempt to pass legislation on the basis of reasons they reasonably reject.
For if I do restrain myself in this way, then the society I live in will not live up to the standards that I believe are essential to evaluating the society. I must then live in and support a society that does not accord with my conception of how it ought to be organized. It is not clear why this is any less of a loss of control over society than for those who must live in a society that is partly regulated by principles they do not accept. On one version, defended by Peter Singerpp. But these claims to dictatorship cannot all hold up, the argument goes.
Democracy embodies a kind of peaceful and fair compromise among these conflicting claims to rule. Each compromises equally on what he claims as long as the others do, resulting in each having an equal say over decision making.
In effect, democratic decision making respects each person's point of view on matters of common concern by giving each an equal say about what to do in cases of disagreement SingerWaldronchap. One difficulty is that this view relies on agreement much as the liberty views described above. What if people disagree on the democratic method or on the particular form democracy is to take? Are we to decide these latter questions by means of a higher order procedure?
And if there is disagreement on the higher order procedure, must we also democratically decide that question? The view seems to lead to an infinite regress. Another egalitarian defense of democracy asserts that it publicly embodies the equal advancement of the interests of the citizens of a society when there is disagreement about how best to organize their shared life.
The idea is that a society ought to be structured to advance equally the interests of the members of the society. And the equality of members ought to be advanced in a way that each can see that they are being treated as equals. So it requires equal advancement of interests in accordance with a public measure of those interests. Hence, justice requires the publicly equal advancement of the interests of the members of society or public equality.
The idea of public equality requires some explanation. If we start with the principle of equal advancement of interests, we will want to know what it implies. Does it imply equality of well being or equality of opportunity for well being or equality of resources? There are other possibilities but the problem with these accounts is that they cannot be realized in a way that every conscientious and informed person can know them to be in place.
So even if one of these principles is implemented many will think that they are not being treated equally. There are likely to be too many disagreements about what each person's well being consists in and how to compare it to the well being of others. The question for a political society is, is there a kind of equality that genuinely advances equally the interests of the members of the society but that does so in a way that all conscientious and informed people can agree treats them as equals?
And the answer to this question must be informed by background facts of diversity, cognitive bias, fallibility and disagreement. Public equality is the realization of equality of advancement of interests that all can see to be such a realization. And the basic argument for democracy is that it realizes equality of advancement of interests when we take the background facts above into account. Now the idea is that public equality is a great value.
The importance of publicity itself is grounded in equality. Given the facts of diversity, cognitive bias, fallibility and disagreement, each will have reason to think that if they are ruled in accordance with some specific notion of equality advanced by some particular group that their interests are likely to be set back in some way.
Only a conception of equality that can be shared by the members of society can give good reason to think that this will not happen.
Within the context set by public equality, people can argue for more specific implementations of equality among citizens in law and policy all the while knowing that there will be substantial and conscientious disagreement on them. As long as the framework within which they make and vote for opposing views is set by public equality, they can know that at base, the society treats them as equals in a way that they can recognize.
Here is the argument for the transition from equal concern for interests to equal concern for judgment. Respect for each citizen's judgment is grounded in the principle of public equality combined with a number of basic facts and fundamental interests that attend social life in typical societies.
The basic facts are that individuals are very diverse in terms of their interests. People's interests are diverse because of their different natural talents, because they are raised in different sectors of society and because they are raised in societies where there is a diversity of cultural backgrounds.
Partly as a consequence of the fact that people are raised in different sectors of society and in distinct cultural milieus they are likely to have deep cognitive biases when they attempt to understand other people's interests and how they are compared to their own interests.
Those biases will tend to assimilate other people's interests to their own in some circumstances or downplay them when there is a wide divergence of interests. Hence people have deep cognitive biases towards their own interests. And they are likely to be highly fallible in their efforts to compare the importance of other people's interests to their own. So they are highly fallible in their efforts to realize equal advancement of interests in society.
And of course there will be a lot of substantial disagreement about how best to advance each person's interests equally. Against the background of these facts each person has interests that stand out as especially important in a pluralistic society.
They have interests in correcting for the cognitive biases of others when it comes to the creation or revision of common economic, legal and political institutions. And each person has interests in living in a world that makes some sense to them, that accords, within limits, to their sense of how that social world out to be structured. The facts described above, and the principle of equality, suggest that each person ought to have an equal say in determining the common legal, economic and political institutions they live under.
In the light of these interests each citizen would have good reason to think that his or her interests were not being given the same weight as others if he or she had less decision making power than the others. And so each person who is deprived of a right to an equal say would have reason to believe that she is being treated publicly as an inferior.
Furthermore, since each person has an interest in being recognized as an equal member of the community, and having less than an equal say suggests that they are being treated as inferiors, only equality in decision making power is compatible with the public equal advancement of interests.
The principle of equal advancement of interests also implies limits to what can be up for democratic control and so the infinite regress noted above is avoided.
So against the background facts of diversity, cognitive bias, fallibility and disagreement each person has fundamental interests in having an equal say in the processes of collective decision making. And so in order for people to be treated publicly as equals they must have an equal say in collective decision making Christiano, A number of worries attend this kind of view. First, it is generally thought that majority rule is required for treating persons as equals in collective decision making.
This is because only majority rule is neutral towards alternatives in decision making. Unanimity tends to favor the status quo as do various forms of supermajority rule.
Democracy and philosophy
But if this is so, the above view raises the twin dangers of majority tyranny and of persistent minorities i. Surely these latter phenomena must be incompatible with equality and even with public equality. Second, the kind of view defended above is susceptible to the criticisms leveled against the ideal of equality in decision making processes.
Is it a coherent ideal, in particular in the modern state? This last worry will be discussed in more detail in the next sections on democratic citizenship and legislative representation. The first worry will be discussed more in the discussion on the limits to democratic authority. The Problem of Democratic Citizenship A vexing problem of democratic theory has been to determine whether ordinary citizens are up to the task of governing a large society.
There are three distinct problems here. First, Plato Republic, Book VI argued that some people are more intelligent and more moral than others and that those persons ought to rule. Second, others have argued that a society must have a division of labor. If everyone were engaged in the complex and difficult task of politics, little time or energy would be left for the other essential tasks of a society.
Conversely, if we expect most people to engage in other difficult and complex tasks, how can we expect them to have the time and resources sufficient to devote themselves intelligently to politics? Third, since individuals have so little impact on the outcomes of political decision making in large societies, they have little sense of responsibility for the outcomes. Some have argued that it is not rational to vote since the chances that a vote will affect the outcome of an election are nearly indistinguishable from zero.
Worse still, Anthony Downs has arguedchap. On the assumption that citizens reason and behave roughly according to the Downsian model, either the society must in fact be run by a relatively small group of people with minimal input from the rest or it will be very poorly run.
As we can see these criticisms are echoes of the sorts of criticisms Plato and Hobbes made. These observations pose challenges for any robustly egalitarian or deliberative conception of democracy. Without the ability to participate intelligently in politics one cannot use one's votes to advance one's aims nor can one be said to participate in a process of reasoned deliberation among equals.
So, either equality of political power implies a kind of self-defeating equal participation of citizens in politics or a reasonable division of labor seems to undermine equality of power. And either substantial participation of citizens in public deliberation entails the relative neglect of other tasks or the proper functioning of the other sectors of the society requires that most people do not participate intelligently in public deliberation. They argue that high levels of citizen participation tend to produce bad legislation designed by demagogues to appeal to poorly informed and overly emotional citizens.
They look upon the alleged uninformedness of citizens evidenced in many empirical studies in the s and s as perfectly reasonable and predictable. Indeed they regard the alleged apathy of citizens in modern states as highly desirable social phenomena.
The alternative, they believe, is a highly motivated population of persons who know nothing and who are more likely than not to pursue irrational and emotionally appealing aims. In this view, the emphasis is placed on responsible political leadership. Political leaders are to avoid divisive and emotionally charged issues and make policy and law with little regard for the fickle and diffuse demands made by ordinary citizens.
Citizens participate in the process of competition by voting but since they know very little they are not effectively the ruling part of the society.
The process of election is usually just a fairly peaceful way of maintaining or changing those who rule. On Schumpeter's view, however, citizens do have a role to play in avoiding serious disasters. When politicians act in ways that nearly anyone can see is problematic, the citizens can throw the bums out. So democracy, even on this stripped down version, plays some role in protecting society from the worst politicians.
So the elite theory of democracy does seem compatible with some of the instrumentalist arguments given above but it is strongly opposed to the intrinsic arguments from liberty, public justification and equality. Against the liberty and equality arguments, the elite theory simply rejects the possibility that citizens can participate as equals.
The society must be ruled by elites and the role of citizens is merely to ensure smooth and peaceful circulation of elites. Against the public justification view, ordinary citizens cannot be expected to participate in public deliberation and the views of elites ought not to be fundamentally transformed by general public deliberation.
To be sure, it is conceivable for all that has been said that there can be an elite deliberative democracy wherein elites deliberate, perhaps even out of sight of the population at large, on how to run the society. Indeed, some deliberative democrats do emphasize deliberation in legislative assemblies though in general deliberative democrats favor a more broadly egalitarian approach to deliberation, which is vulnerable to the kinds of worries raised by Schumpeter and Downs. Robert Dahl's early statement of the view is very powerful.
In this conception of the democratic process, each citizen is a member of an interest group with narrowly defined interests that are closely connected to their everyday lives. On these subjects citizens are supposed to be quite well informed and interested in having an influence.
Or at least, elites from each of the interest groups that are relatively close in perspective to the ordinary members are the principal agents in the process. On this account, democracy is not rule by the majority but rather rule by coalitions of minorities.
Policy and law in a democratic society are decided by means of bargaining among the different groups.
This approach is conceivably compatible with the more egalitarian approach to democracy. This is because it attempts to reconcile equality with collective decision making by limiting the tasks of citizens to ones which they are able to perform reasonably well. And it attempts to do this in a way that gives citizens a key role in decision making. The account ensures that individuals can participate roughly as equals to the extent that it narrowly confines the issues each individual is concerned with.21. Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville's Democracy in America
It is not particularly compatible with the deliberative public justification approach because it eschews deliberation about the common good or about justice. And it takes the democratic process to be concerned essentially with bargaining among the different interest groups where the preferences to be advanced by each group is not subject to further debate in the society as a whole.
To be sure, there might be some deliberation within interest groups but it will not be society wide. Against elite theories, they contend that elites and their allies will tend to expand the powers of government and bureaucracy for their own interests and that this expansion will occur at the expense of a largely inattentive public. For this reason, they argue for severe restrictions on the powers of elites.
They argue against the interest group pluralist theorists that the problem of participation occurs within interest groups more or less as much as among the citizenry at large.
As a consequence, interest groups will not form very easily. Only those interest groups that are guided by powerful economic interests are likely to succeed in organizing to influence the government. Hence, only some interest groups will succeed in influencing government and they will do so largely for the benefit of the powerful economic elites that fund and guide them.
Furthermore, they argue that such interest groups will tend to produce highly inefficient government because they will attempt to advance their interests in politics while spreading the costs to others. The consequence of this is that policies will be created that tend to be more costly because imposed on everyone in society than they are beneficial because they benefit only the elites in the interest group.
Neo-liberals argue that any way of organizing a large and powerful democratic state is likely to produce serious inefficiencies. They infer that one ought to transfer many of the current functions of the state to the market and limit the state to the enforcement of basic property rights and liberties. These can be more easily understood and brought under the control of ordinary citizens. But the neo-liberal account of democracy must answer to two large worries.
First, citizens in modern societies have more ambitious conceptions of social justice and the common good than are realizable by the minimal state. The neo-liberal account thus implies a very serious curtailment of democracy of its own. More evidence is needed to support the contention that these aspirations cannot be achieved by the modern state. Second, the neo-liberal approach ignores the problem of large private concentrations of wealth and power that are capable of pushing small states around for their own benefit and imposing their wills on populations without their consent.
The assumptions that lead neo-liberals to be skeptical about the large modern state imply equally disturbing problems for the large private concentrations of wealth in a neo-liberal society. The problem of participation and the accounts of the democratic process described above are in large part dependent on this assumption. While these ideas have generated interesting results and have become ever more sophisticated, there has been a growing chorus of opponents.
Against the self-interest axiom, defenders of deliberative democracy and others claim that citizens are capable of being motivated by a concern for the common good and justice. And they claim, with Mill and Rousseau, that such concerns are not merely given prior to politics but that they can evolve and improve through the process of discussion and debate in politics.
They assert that much debate and discussion in politics would not be intelligible were it not for the fact that citizens are willing to engage in open minded discussion with those who have distinct morally informed points of view. Empirical evidence suggests that individuals are motivated by moral considerations in politics in addition to their interests.
Accordingly, many propose that democratic institutions be designed to support the inclination to engage in moral and open-minded discussion with others see the essays in Mansbridge If we think that citizens are too often uninformed we should ask two questions. What ought citizens have knowledge about in order to fulfill their role? Some, such as Dahl in the above quote, have proposed that citizens know about their particular sectors of society and not others.
We have seen that this view has a number of difficulties. Christiano proposes, along with others, that citizens must think about what ends the society ought to aim at and leave the question of how to achieve those aims to experts Christianochap. This kind of view needs to answer to the problem of how to ensure that politicians, administrators and experts actually do attempt to realize the aims set by citizens.
And it must show how institutions can be designed so as to establish the division of labor while preserving equality among citizens.
But if citizens genuinely do choose the aims and others faithfully pursue the means to achieving those aims, then citizens are in the driver's seat in society. It is hard to see how citizens can satisfy any even moderate standards for beliefs about out how best to achieve their political aims.
Knowledge of means requires an immense amount of social science and knowledge of particular facts. For citizens to have this kind of knowledge generally would require that we abandon the division of labor in society. On the other hand, citizens do have first hand and daily experience with thinking about the values and aims they pursue. This gives them a chance to satisfy standards of belief regarding what the best aims are.
Still the view is not defensible without a compelling institutional answer to the question of how to ensure that others are genuinely pursuing the means to achieve the aims specified by citizens. On the proposed view, legislative representatives and bureaucrats as well as judges must subordinate their activities to the task of figuring out how to pursue the aims of citizens. Furthermore, we must ask, how must institutions be designed in order to reconcile the demand for equality among citizens with the need for a division of labor?
We will discuss one dimension of this issue in the question of legislative representation. Legislative Representation A number of debates have centered on the question of what kinds of legislative institution are best for a democratic society. What choice we make here will depend heavily on our underlying ethical justification of democracy, our conception of citizenship as well as on our empirical understanding of political institutions and how they function.
The most basic types of formal political representation available are single member district representation, proportional representation and group representation. In addition, many societies have opted for multicameral legislative institutions.
In some cases, combinations of the above forms have been tried. Single member district representation returns single representatives of geographically defined areas containing roughly equal populations to the legislature and is present most prominently in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The most common form of proportional representation is party list proportional representation. In a simple form of such a scheme, a number of parties compete for election to a legislature that is not divided into geographical districts. Parties acquire seats in the legislature as a proportion of the total number of votes they receive in the voting population as a whole. Group representation occurs when the society is divided into non-geographically defined groups such as ethnic or linguistic groups or even functional groups such as workers, farmers and capitalists and returns representatives to a legislature from each of them.
Many have argued in favor of single member district legislation on the grounds that it has appeared to them to lead to more stable government than other forms of representation. The thought is that proportional representation tends to fragment the citizenry into opposing homogeneous camps that rigidly adhere to their party lines and that are continually vying for control over the government.
Since there are many parties and they are unwilling to compromise with each other, governments formed from coalitions of parties tend to fall apart rather quickly. The post war experience of governments in Italy appears to confirm this hypothesis. Single member district representation, in contrast, is said to enhance the stability of governments by virtue of its favoring a two party system of government.
Each election cycle then determines which party is to stay in power for some length of time. Charles Beitz argueschap. This results from the tendency of this kind of representation towards two party systems. In a two party system with majority rule, it is argued, each party must appeal to the median voter in the political spectrum. Hence, they must moderate their programs to appeal to the median voter. Furthermore, they encourage compromise among groups since they must try to appeal to a lot of other groups in order to become part of one of the two leading parties.
These tendencies encourage moderation and compromise in citizens to the extent that political parties, and interest groups, hold these qualities up as necessary to functioning well in a democracy. In criticism, advocates of proportional and group representation have argued that single member district representation tends to muffle the voices and ignore the interests of minority groups in the society. Minority interests and views tend to be articulated in background negotiations and in ways that muffle their distinctiveness.
Furthermore, representatives of minority interests and views often have a difficult time getting elected at all in single member district systems so it has been charged that minority views and interests are often systematically underrepresented. Sometimes these problems are dealt with by redrawing the boundaries of districts in a way that ensures greater minority representation.
The efforts are invariably quite controversial since there is considerable disagreement about the criteria for apportionment. Minorities need not make their demands conform to the basic dichotomy of views and interests that characterize single member district systems so their views are more articulated and distinctive as well as better represented. Another criticism of single member district representation is that it encourages parties to pursue dubious electoral campaign strategies.
The need to appeal to a large, diverse and somewhat amorphous sector of the population can very often be best met by using ambiguous, vague and often quite irrelevant appeals to the citizens. Thus instead of encouraging reasonable compromise the scheme tends to support tendencies towards ignorance, superficiality and fatuousness in political campaigns and in the citizenry.
It encourages political leaders to take care of the real issues of politics in back rooms while they appeal to citizens by means of smoke and mirrors.
Of course, those who agree in the main with the elitist type theories will see nothing wrong in this, indeed they may well champion this effect. Proportional representation requires that parties be relatively clear and up front about their proposals, so those who believe that democracy is ethically grounded in the appeal to equality tend to favor proportional representation see Christianochap.
Advocates of group representation, like Iris Marion Youngchap. They may not be able to organize and articulate their views as easily as other groups. Also, minority groups can still be systematically defeated in the legislature and their interests may be consistently set back even if they do have some representation. For these groups, some have argued that the only way to protect their interests is legally to ensure that they have adequate and even disproportionate representation.
One worry about group representation is that it tends to freeze some aspects of the agenda that might be better left to the choice of citizens. For instance, consider a population that is divided into linguistic groups for a long time. And suppose that only some citizens continue to think of linguistic conflict as important. In the circumstances a group representation scheme may tend to be biased in an arbitrary way that favors the views or interests of those who do think of linguistic conflict as important.
The Authority of Democracy Since democracy is a collective decision process, the question naturally arises about whether there is any obligation of citizens to obey the democratic decision. In particular, the question arises as to whether a citizen has an obligation to obey the democratic decision when he or she disagrees with it.
There are three main concepts of the legitimate authority of the state. First, a state has legitimate authority to the extent that it is morally justified in imposing its rule on the members. Legitimate authority on this account has no direct implications concerning the obligations or duties that citizens may hold toward that state.
It simply says that if the state is morally justified in doing what it does, then it has legitimate authority. Second, a state has legitimate authority to the extent that its directives generate duties in citizens to obey. The duties of the citizens need not be owed to the state but they are real duties to obey.
This is the strongest notion of authority and it seems to be the core idea behind the legitimacy of the state. The idea is that when citizens disagree about law and policy it is important to be able to answer the question, who has the right to choose? With respect to democracy we can imagine three main approaches to the question as to whether democratic decisions have authority. First, we can appeal to perfectly general conceptions of legitimate authority.
Some have thought that the question of authority is independent entirely of whether a state is democratic. Consent theories of political authority and instrumentalist conceptions of political authority state general criteria of political authority that can be met by non democratic as well as democratic states.
Democracy - Wikipedia
Second, some have thought that there is a conceptual link between democracy and authority such that if a decision is made democratically then it must therefore have authority.
Third, some have thought that there are general principles of political authority that are uniquely realized by a democratic state under certain well defined conditions.
Readers who are interested in more general conceptions of political authority may consult the entry for political authority for a discussion of the issues. And the second kind of view has been largely abandoned by democratic theorists. I do wish to discuss the third kind of conception of the political authority of democracy. The instrumental arguments for democracy give some reason for why one ought to respect the democracy when one disagrees with its decisions.
But there may be many other instrumental considerations that play a role in deciding on the question of whether one ought to obey. And these instrumental considerations are pretty much the same whether one is considering obedience to democracy or some other form of rule. There is one instrumentalist approach which is quite unique to democracy and that seems to ground a strong conception of democratic authority. That is the approach inspired by the Condorcet Jury Theorem Goodin,chap.
According to this theorem, on issues where there are two alternatives and there is a correct answer as to which one is correct, if voters have on average a better than even chance of getting the right answer, the majority is more likely to have the right answer than anyone in the minority. And the likelihood that the majority is right increases as the size of the voting population increases. In very large populations, the chance that the majority is right approaches certainty.
The theorem is an instance of the law of large numbers. If each voter has an independently better than 0. Such a result makes sense of Rousseau's famous passage: On this account, we have a conception of the authority of democracy. The members of the minority have a powerful reason for shifting their allegiance to the majority position, since each has very good reason to think that the majority is right.
There are a number of difficulties with the application of the Condorcet Jury Theorem to the case of voting in elections and referenda. Indeed, the democratic process seems to emphasize persuasion and coalition building. And the theorem only works on independent trials. Second, the theorem does not seem to apply to cases in which the information that voters have access to, and on the basis of which they make their judgments, is segmented in various ways so that some sectors of the society do not have the relevant information while others do have it.
And modern societies and politics seem to instantiate this kind of segmentation in terms of class, race, ethnic groupings, religion, occupational position, geographical place and so on. One can always have good reason to think that the majority is not properly placed to make a reasonable decision on a certain issue when one is in the minority.
Finally, all voters approach issues they have to make decisions on with strong ideological biases thus undermining the sense that each voter is bringing a kind of independent observation on the nature of the common good to the vote. One further worry about the Condorcet Theorem's application seems to be that it would prove too much anyway for it undermines the common practice of the loyal opposition in democracies.
Indeed, even in scientific communities the fact that a majority of scientists favor a particular view does not make the minority scientists think that they are wrong, though it does perhaps give them pause Goodinchap. John Locke arguessec. Locke thinks that majority rule is the natural decision rule when there are no other ones. English Puritans who migrated from established colonies in New England whose local governance was democratic and which contributed to the democratic development of the United States ;  although these local assemblies had some small amounts of devolved power, the ultimate authority was held by the Crown and the English Parliament.
The Puritans Pilgrim FathersBaptistsand Quakers who founded these colonies applied the democratic organisation of their congregations also to the administration of their communities in worldly matters.
The taxed peasantry was represented in parliament, although with little influence, but commoners without taxed property had no suffrage.
The creation of the short-lived Corsican Republic in marked the first nation in modern history to adopt a democratic constitution all men and women above age of 25 could vote . This Corsican Constitution was the first based on Enlightenment principles and included female suffragesomething that was not granted in most other democracies until the 20th century.
In the American colonial period beforeand for some time after, often only adult white male property owners could vote; enslaved Africans, most free black people and most women were not extended the franchise. Athena has been used as an international symbol of freedom and democracy since at least the late eighteenth century. This was particularly the case in the United Statesand especially in the last fifteen slave states that kept slavery legal in the American South until the Civil War.
A variety of organisations were established advocating the movement of black people from the United States to locations where they would enjoy greater freedom and equality. The United Kingdom's Slave Trade Act banned the trade across the British Empirewhich was enforced internationally by the Royal Navy under treaties Britain negotiated with other nations.