Democracy from John Dewey’s
Democracy from John Dewey’s point of view encompasses much more than it is perceived of, it is indeed, a method of conducting government, making laws and performing other governmental administration through the way of universal suffrage and directly elected officers: however, it is something that is much deeper and much broader than that. It is a political and governmental tool that helps in the creation of human relationships and the development of personality.
It is a way of life, and therefore the prerequisite for the participation of every mature being in formation of the morals that control the mutual existence of men together, a mutual existence that is vital for the overall social wellbeing and the ultimate development of human beings as individuals. In order to make democracy a true way of life, a number of practical measures must be present, these are; universal suffrage, recurring elections, and the sense of responsibility on the part of the voter-elected political leaders.
Further the elected political leaders should not behave as if they are a final end and final value, rather they should conduct themselves in a way that will enable them being judged by their contribution to end, democracy is idolatry in nature. Insightfully, democracy has its foundation from the notion that no man or limited set of men is best positioned to rule others without their consent: meaning that, those people who are affected in one way or the other by socio-political institutions must be part and parcel of the production and management of them.
Political democracy develops through substitution of the method of mutual consultation and voluntary agreement for the method of subordination of the majority to the minority enforced from the top. It is inclined on the pillars of belief in equality and rather than belief in equality of natural endowments. In one sentence, each one is equally an individual permitted to equal opportunities of development of his own capacities, irrespective of their magnitude, small or big, and based on unique needs of an individual needs.
Democracy understands that intelligence is distributed unequally among the members of a society, and therefore in true democratic spaces each individual is believed to be in position to contribute something valuable towards the intelligence pool. It understands that, the control or manipulation of any social setting affects the formation of dispositions and tastes, attitudes, interests, purposes and desires of the very people who are engaged in the carrying out the social activities of the group.
On the other hand, the lack of proper participation will definitely leads to lose of interest and concern, particularly on the part of those who are shut out. This ultimately leads to lack of effective responsibility, and therefore jeopardizing the perpetuation of democracy. What is implied here is that, the most appropriate way to bring about initiative and constructive power is to exercise it, as power and interest are best achieved through practice.
Conclusively, political democracy as it were is a people oriented process that is directly dependent on the existence of democratic habits of thoughts and actions, and that for its survival, it needs to be buttressed by the creation and sustaining of social relationships that are rich in democratic habits and actions. From what seems to be a departure from the metaphysical paradigms, Dewey substitutes the love of the society and calls upon for a positivistic pragmatism that acknowledges all sides of the philosophical divide.
In his theory he presents pragmatism as the philosophic counterpart of democracy. Main Concepts of Democracy From Dewey’s political philosophy point of view democracy can be approached from three perspectives: democracy as social enquiry; democracy as expression of individuality, and; democracy as the protection of popular interests. One of the core concepts of democracy Dewey held was that, democracy helps individual voters to freely express their wishes and interest without the fear of bashing and victimization by putative experts on where their interest lies.
He reasons that a class of experts would as you might expect reincarnate into a class whose interests disagrees with those of the rest and become a team of oligarchs. He points out that, the most important and appropriate measure to be taken on behalf of democracy-resultant political forms such as majority rule, popular vote, public opinion, etc, is to indulge in consultative talks with social needs and other troubles given top priority. He emphasizes on the crucial role of persuasion, discussion, consultation, and debating in democracy creation talks.
It is these processes that grows and multiplies, that creates an insight about the problems that a given society may be facing, at the long run the social needs of the society are made known to all members of the society. The second concept of democracy as put forth by Dewey is that it is a form of social inquiry. Being a public discussion, democracy is then perceived to be the best method of dealing with conflict of interests in a society.
The organized intelligence method of democracy serves to bring these conflicts on the discussion table whereby all parties’ claims can be listened to and judged with greater emphasis being laid on more inclusive interests rather than the ones presented by either party. Democratic politics is not a mere channel through which people may forward their interests through, rather it is a platform that challenges people to make a conception of their interests.
Hence, democratic societies seek find out what desirable goals are and what methods are possible in achieving the goals. Basically, democracy should be experiential, in that it should lead to the questioning of the established order. Thirdly, democracy is a requirement of freedom in Dewey’s sense of individuality. The element of experimenting in democracy is an ethical obligation of this concept of freedom. If exercised in the appropriate level experimental exercise leads to individual satisfaction. It leads to full liberation of individual potentialities.
According to Plato, democracy comes into being as degenerating oligarchy: it is characterized by great freedom in the sense that one can partake of anything he wishes or wills to do, it is the a form of government in which one finds people of all varieties. In his comparison of oligarchs and the poor he terms oligarchs as being rich, fat and lazy while the poor are victorious, killing some of their opponents and expelling others, and giving rest an equal share in ruling under corruption, and for the most part assigning people to positions of rule by lot. [Rep. , 557b]
Further, he emphasizes on the notion of virtue, perfection, excellence, function – cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, temperance, justice; tripartite division of the soul and the state – rational, spirited, appetitive, the need for specialization, a harmony of the elements, an intellectual aristocracy in which rulers rule based on knowledge and goodness, not popularity. In a nutshell the democratic man surrenders his desires, giving those desires an opportunity to rule over him. Locke dedicates much of theories on the emphasizing the important of democratic rule in a society.
He staunchly refuted a situation whereby men are controlled against their own will, as this control was against the law of nature. He contended that the natural emancipation of man holds that man should be free from any power on earth, and that he should be not be subjected to any human controlled force or form of government: he should only be under the whims of the law of nature. His, was a real democracy that enhanced true equality of opportunities to the very extend of encompassing the rights of women as an equal voice. [Chap. 1-5]
Living in a time when religious, social, and political frictions were prevalent in England Thomas Hobbes developed a keen interest on establishing why people yearned to be ruled and what was the best method of governance that would suit the people’s needs. In Leviathan, he argued that people were naturally wicked and therefore not fit to be leaders. Unlike, Locke, Hobbes believed in absolute system of governance, that left all the leadership powers to the king or queen. He regarded human as selfish beings that would do anything to put themselves in a better position, and therefore they should not be allowed to make their own decisions.
Further, he felt that nations just like people were made of selfishness and evil deeds. Again, in contrast to what Locke theorized, he held that the purpose of the government was to protect the people from their own evil and selfishness. It is as a result of this desire to promote individual interests rather than national ones that make democracy a fallacy, a thing that cannot be practically achieved, according to Hobbes. A good government should be therefore characterized by great power of leviathan: this power could only be exercised by a king or a queen.
Power given to the people will result into them yearning for more and therefore fighting each other in order to amass such power, consequently turning the society a battlefield instead of a place whereby the natural rights and freedoms are upheld. . [Part I, Chap. 1-3, 6] Democracy and Political Philosophy Western political philosophy is based on ancient Greek society context, particularly in the time when the city states were undergoing various forms of political organization such as monarchy, tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, and democracy.
The most important classical works on political philosophy were that of Plato, The Republic, and later work by Aristotle, Politics. For instance, Socrates through his disciple Plato argued that the relation between knowledge on one side and a just society on the other side forms the basis of political philosophy. [Book I] Aristotle, in his work, Politics theorized that human beings are social animals, and that the city state came into being in order to create a good life for such animals.
He largely believes that in order for man to become fully human, he must engage in political association of the city. Aristotle contends that the best regime exists only in theory; though studying it to determine its laws, structure, and underlying principles is worthwhile since it offers a basis on which one can critically look at other regimes and form a conclusion on which is best for a given situation. The work of political philosophy is to theorize on which regime are best and which laws are the best suitable for each type of regime.
He boldly asserts that laws should be enacted with view of the regimes and not regimes in view of laws. In his analysis of different kinds of regimes, he defines democracy, as a state in which the freeborn are sovereign, and oligarchy, as a state in which the rich are sovereign. Regimes are created by the divisions that exists among the city people, these divisions are; farming class; mechanical class concerned with the arts and crafts; merchant and retailer class; hired laborers; soldiers; wealthy patrons; the executive; the deliberative, and; judicial branches of public affairs.
According to him, a political regime is the arrangements of offices, each city arranges its offices in accordance with which group in the city is preeminent. The main types of political regimes are democracy and oligarchy. In elaborating his definition of democracy, he holds that democracy is not formed by the rule of majority, since in every regime the majority has authority. The difference between democracy and oligarchy is that democracy occurs when the free and poor, being a majority, have authority to rule while oligarchy occurs when the wealthy, few and better born wields authority. [Book IV]
Guess perception of political philosophy is based on real politics and not realistically utopian. He seems to acknowledge the importance of idealizations in philosophy, but goes ahead to lay blames on the tenets of contemporary political philosophy which are responsible for making idealizations what they are. He holds that being realistically utopian is a political situation whereby individuals build an ideal theory of rights and justice which guides them into judging political actions. It is a concept that can be characterized by reductionism and modes of exclusion of complex social realities.
More often than not, it tends to be inclined on basic notions of its concepts of moral instincts that people claim to be part of them and therefore universal and ageless. These concepts are manufactured within a distinct social and historical setting and remain largely assumed. They are sustained, as Guess points out by, “ignoring or blanking out history, sociology, and the particularities that constitute the substance of any recognizable form of human life. ” (p. 59) For, John Locke in Second Treatise of Government believed that people have a natural ability to govern themselves and subsequently take care of the wellbeing of the society.
His arguments were tied to the notion that the state of nature has got a law of nature that governs it and that treats all persons equally. It is this law of nature that teaches all human beings the virtues of being one and the same and self-sufficient, and that no one should cause suffering to another. He did not see the sense that God created or chose a class of people to be rulers over others: he opposed the notion that some kings and queens possessed to rights and there justified to rule.
This literature supports his political position of governance whereby the government should have the full mandate of the governed subjects. His study of various forms of historical governances convinces him that peaceful governments are founded on the full consent of the governed subjects. His take on government is based on the notion that governments are purposely put in place to protect the people’s right to life, right to freedom, and right to property. These rights are not subject to compromise, they are absolute.
He therefore advised that in order to fully safe guard these rights; a government should be made up of three arms to avoid any temptations of usurping autocratic power on the part of the governing cliche (politicians). Should then a government overstep their mandate and abuse these divine rights instead of safe guarding them then people are justified to act and put in place a new government that respects the tenets of a democratic rule. [Chap. 1-5] Thomas Hobbes perception of democracy seems to depart from majority of early theorists and philosophers, particularly John Locke.
To him democracy is the least stable and most partial form of government. In regards to order of time democracy is the first, but in respect to order of safety it comes last, hence exposing itself to conflict and more vulnerable to seduction by orators just as water drawn upon a plain table is guided by a finger. He contends that, the purpose of establishing a commonwealth is to escape the state of nature and to provide peace and the common defense of the people, defense, which is an entrusted responsibility to the sovereign.
However, Hobbes, himself being a staunch proponent of absolutist rule opts to hold on to democracy within Leviathan’s political context, may be due to his understanding that it is democracy that leads to political stabilization, and hence in one way or the other he supports democracy. For example, he understands that a diverse group of representatives, who on behalf of the common person presents his problems, may make a king to soften and sometimes listen to the voice of the people. However, sometimes this voice may be merely heard and not necessarily listened to, as the final decision rests with the king.
[Part I, Chap. 10-11, 13-15] Like Hobbes, Jean Jacques Rousseau uses the analogy of the social contract to put across his convictions on why a people are in the dire need of a state and what should or should not be included in the composition of that state. However, in what seems to be a contrast to Hobbes theory he posits that a democratic state is the best outcome for the social contract, since it will seek to preserve the liberty of individuals by granting them an opportunity of creating the laws that rule them.
For him, social contract must be unanimously agreed upon, and that whoever goes against it must be expelled from the state, and that all other acts of sovereignty should be as well decided by the majority vote. On the other hand, he contradicts himself when he contends that there does not exist a social contract between the government and the people since in the first place the people does not surrender their power or will to the government in the way that they do to the sovereign. In his discussion about how the state should be ruled he makes a transition from abstract to practical and from legislative to executive.
To him democracy is very unstable, susceptible, and vulnerable to civil strife. As such therefore, in order to be successful, democracy would need to be small, with simple and honest citizens who have little ambition or greed. [Book I] Conclusions The literature discussed in this paper tackles the two sides of democratic governance, its strengths and weaknesses. However, one thing stands, that democracy from whichever philosophical point of view one looks at it, it is the by far the most suitable form of regime.
Even those philosophers who opposed it in favor for aristocratic governance had some reservations on it, Hobbes and Rousseau are examples. Any political system of governance that respects the laws of nature that grants rights and freedoms to man can be termed as good. Apparently this is what democratic governance is comprised of. Work Cited: • Cahn, Steven, Classic of Political and Moral Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2001, accessed on April 25, 2009 • Guess, Raymond, Philosophy and Real Politics, Princeton UP, 2008, accessed on April 25, 2009Sample Essay of PapersOwl.com