Thursday, 18 August 2011
IS "DEMOCRACY" DEMOCRATIC?
When hearing or reading the word "democracy", the assumptions that the reader is asked to accept as facts are that:
a) democracy means sovereignty rests with the people. But which people? Even John Locke who used the term 'people' in his Second Treatise of Civil Government had a specific social class, and by no means did he mean all people! In short, 'Democracy' can and always has been the domain of a small social class, thus a form of oligarchy, something that even the ancient Athenians who invented the word Democracy readily understood, as they would have no women, no foreigners and no slaves take part in 'Democracy'.
b) the second assumption is about sovereignty and it is inexorably related to the first assumption. The concept of sovereignty is different for political thinkers throughout the ages; certainly even within the Enlightenment era that Locke influenced there is a difference of opinion. Sovereignty theoretically rests with the people who vote and then surrender it to elected officials who in practice do not represent their voters but socioeconomic elites that pay for election campaigns and own most of the wealth. If any 'democratic leader' took into consideration the interests of the voters made up of middle class and workers, there would be no downward socioeconomic mobility in the early 21st century. Therefore sovereignty rests neither with the voters nor with the politicians in modern democracies but with the socioeconomic elites that collectively exert influence to maintain and further their privileged status.
Question: Is "democracy" as practiced in society democratic?