It is my great pleasure to join you for the occasion of the greatest demonstration for the emancipation from racial discrimination in the history of our country.
Four and half decades ago, a king of Nepal announced ‘Civil Codes’ to end the racial discrimination prevailed in the society from the ages, established by the orthodox Hinduism. This momentous decree came as a hope of millions of so-called Depressed people who had been oppressed in the name of caste and had been seared in the flame of withering justice. But four and half decades later, the so-called depressed are not emancipated or have not got the rights of equality. Four and half decades later the Depressed are living in the dark cave of savagery. Four and half decades later the Depressed are left far behind of the minimum rights of human kind. Four and half decades later the Depressed have found that they are exiled in their mother land. Four and half decades later they are living under the standard of refugees. Four and half decades later of the declaration against racial discrimination, they are waiting for the ‘Prasad’ from the priest by standing outside the temple’s gate. So we are here today to re-dramatize the declaration of Civil Codes and the democratic norms and values which have caused the shameful condition where the Depressed people are threatened in three sides: by the society, country and the fellow friends.
Quarter to three century ago, a king from Gorkha dared to unify the numbers of principalities into one nation. It was not easier to get victory over all the principalities by using bare khukuries and ancient guns. A then lower caste man, Bise Nagarchi, who was the advisor of the king, suggested him to collect ‘one rupee’ from each roof by which they could collect two thousand rupees to buy modern weapons to achieve the mission. Not only that many scopes including Maniram Gaine, visited the whole village by singing the songs of victory to encourage the Gorkhali Soldiers to fight against the principalities to unify the greater Nepal.
Two centuries ago, the British Army wanted to invade Nepal after capturing the vast territory of India. Nepal was the land of fresh climate where they could have rest by viewing the snow capped mountains after the long and the hard work in the factory. A then depressed man, Bange Sarki, accepted the death from the British Army of not leading them way to Nepal.
One and a half century ago, Nepal became a colony due to its own people of elite group for one hundred and four years. Many of the sons of the nation sacrificed themselves for establishing democracy against the cruel Rana Regime. A woman from Depressed class, Ram Maya Podeni, who was the sweeper in the Rana’s Palace helped Ganesh Man Singh, The Supreme Commander of People Revolution Movement 2046, by exchanging letters from outside the jail and leaking the Ranas Plan against Nepali Congress.
These are only the outlines of the sacrifices from the people who named so-called Depressed class. There are uncountable events and sacrifices that they have been helping the nation to flourish peace and order. They have been playing important role for the sake of Nepalese sovereignty. They showed their courage and identity in 2036, at the time of Referendum, First Peoples’ Revolution Movement 2046, and Second People Revolution Movement 2062/63. Even the first Martyr of the 10 years Civil War launched by the Maoist rebel, Dil Bahadur Ramtel, was from the Depressed Class.
But those who did not care for their caste and own self for the sake of the country were left far behind the modern civilization. Those who had built palaces for the rulers became homeless, those who had decorated kings and the ruling class people with beautiful clothes became naked, those who had prepared shoes for the higher classes were left barefooted and who had made pots, tools and weapons were became weaker and powerless. So is the case, we are here to cash the check which our forefathers got as the untouched check from the government and the ruling class.
The world is now speeding in the 21st century of science and technology but we are roaming in the 18th century culture and tradition where particular people are forced to live in a ditch. ‘Everyone is before the eye of law’ is only the slogans of leaders in their public speech; it is not applied in action.
We read in the newspapers: a woman from Depressed class was forced to have stool by the head-teacher of government school by accusing of doing witchcraft near capital city; the Depressed are banned to take water from the public tap or well; the students from Depressed class were forbidden to enter the practical class in vocational period of preparing meal; there was only one blanket in the whole village of Depressed class which was brought by a young man who spent three years in Qatar. All the villagers sleep under the straw and an old man of about 70 years wished to have a blanket before his death; a family of Depressed class from some village in some District were exiled because a boy of the family went ahead with love marriage with a girl from so-called higher class; a former MP from elite group forced the administration to stop supplying food and water to the so-called lower caste people because they disobeyed to throw the dead buffalo from the Brahmin’s house; a boy of about 8 years was beaten till death by a shopkeeper because he touched the goods in the shop; a government personnel couldn’t get room for rent in the District headquarter because he was from so-called lower class.
These are the news which were published in the newspapers. Imagine! How many innumerable cruelties have been left to be published out of the reach of the journalists. But the slogan of ‘Equality’ is repeated by the leaders and the educated scholars like the ‘sermons’ and Gayatri Mantra’. Because we are taking vast donation and foreign aids in the name of ‘uplifting’ so-called Depressed class and we are practicing world-wide democracy in our country.
But I have not lost the hope of light to be lit in the heart of elite group. I have a dream, one day a young man from Depressed class will donate blood to the young ill man of elite group; I have a dream, one day a man from elite group will offer a cup of tea to a man from Depressed class at his drawing room; I have a dream, one day a woman from Depressed group share a same woven to warm themselves in the winter; I have a dream, one day a man from elite group is happy to get marriage his daughter with a boy from Depressed class; I hae a dream, one day the villagers from elite and Depressed group get together to have sermon at the courtyard of a temple; I have a dream, one day a competitive candidate from elite group offer a job to the candidate from Depressed group not based on competition but based on needs; I have a dream one day a priest from Depressed class will offer ‘Prasad and blessing’ to the people from elite group; and I have dream one day all the citizens of the whole country will be busy of holding a hooding board mentioning "Discrimination Free on the Base on Caste" at the center of the villagers and the cities.
Let’s join our hands together to free discrimination because discrimination can’t be free without the spontaneous co-operation of elite group.
May god bless all of us to achieve the destination!
A right may be defined as something to which an individual has a just claim. The American Declaration of Independence states that “all men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a brief statement about human rights in contrast to civil rights. Human rights are those that individuals have by virtue of their existence as human beings. The right to life itself and the basic necessities of food and clothing may be considered fundamental human rights.
Civil, or legal, rights are those granted by a government. The right to vote at age 18 is a civil right, not a human right. In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries there was a broadening of the concept of human rights to include many rights formerly regarded as civil.
The term human rights came into common use only after World War II. It was made current by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published in 1948. As a term human rights replaced natural rights, a very old concept, and the related phrase rights of man, which did not necessarily include the rights of women.
Most scholars trace the origin of the concept of natural rights to ancient Greek and Roman thought. In the literature and philosophy of both Greece and Rome there are abundant statements acknowledging laws of the gods and of nature, and such laws were understood to take precedence over laws made by the state.
The human-rights concept, however, can actually be traced to an earlier period. The Hebrew Bible (called the Old Testament by Christians) relates the story of ancient Israel, and in it are abundant inferences about human rights. There is no well-developed statement on the issue, but there are significant scattered passages that give clear evidence of a point of view at least as advanced as Greek and Roman philosophy. The Ten Commandments, by the prohibition of murder and theft, give implicit recognition of the right to life and property. This recognition is considerably broadened by later elaboration of the laws and by the passionate discourses on justice by such prophets as Amos.
If the concept of human rights is very old, the general recognition of their validity is not. Throughout most of history, governments failed to accept the notion that people have rights independent of the state. This is called statism, and it implies the supremacy of the state in all matters pertaining to the lives of subjects. Statism is still a potent concept in the 20th century. Germany under Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union during the rule of Joseph Stalin are prime examples, and there are other equally valid instances that still exist.
The modern development of the human-rights concept began during the late Middle Ages in the period called the Renaissance, when resistance to political and economic tyranny began to surface in Europe. It was during the 17th and 18th centuries, a period called the Enlightenment, that specific attention was drawn by scientific discoveries to the workings of natural law. This, in turn, seemed to imply the existence of natural rights with which the state should not be allowed to interfere.
By the time of the American and French revolutions, a complete turnaround had taken place in the relationship of governments to human rights. The point of view elaborated by the American Founding Fathers, as well as by the French revolutionaries, is that government's purpose is to protect and defend rights, not to dispense or exploit them. James Madison went so far as to assert that “as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may equally be said to have a property in his rights.” And further, “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.” The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (France, 1789) states that, “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights,” and “The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and inprescriptible rights of man.”
Such advanced views of human rights were not without their critics. From the end of the 18th century through the third decade of the 20th, outspoken and influential theorists attacked the human-rights concept. Edmund Burke in England denounced what he called “the monstrous fiction” of human equality. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham stated that only imaginary rights can be derived from a law of nature. These thinkers were joined, in the course of 100 years, by Bentham's disciple John Stuart Mill, the French political theorist Joseph de Meistre, the German jurist Friedrich Karl von Svaigny, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and others. By 1894 the British writer F.H. Bradley could exalt the concept of statism by saying: “The rights of the individual today are not worth consideration. . . . The welfare of the community is the end and is the ultimate standard.”
The critics, however, were going against the tide of history. In the United States and many parts of Europe, there was distinct progress in the development of human rights. These instances might not have been sufficient without the laboratory of human rights abuse that Nazi Germany provided for all the world to see. The appalling crimes against humanity, most evident in the extermination of millions of people in concentration camps, horrified the civilized world and helped bring human rights to their present level of acceptance.
Definitions of Rights
The general acceptance of human rights led to a widespread agreement on certain fundamental assumptions about them: (1) If a right is affirmed as a human right rather than a civil right, it is understood to be universal, something that applies to all human beings everywhere. (2) Rights are understood to represent individual and group demands for the sharing of political and economic power. (3) It is agreed that human rights are not always absolute: they may be limited or restrained for the sake of the common good or to secure the rights of others. (4) Human rights is not an umbrella term to cover all personal desires. (5) The concept of rights often implies related obligations. Thomas Jefferson noted that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Therefore, if individuals would maintain their freedom, their duty is to guard against political, religious, and social activities that may restrict their rights and the rights of others.
Acceptance of fundamental assumptions has not lessened disagreement on which rights can be classified as human rights. Historically the debate has been carried on about three categories: individual, social, and collective. Individual rights refers to the basic rights to life and liberty mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Social rights broadens this concept to include economic, social, and cultural rights. Collective, or solidarity, rights has come into prominence since the end of World War II, the collapse of old colonial empires, and the emergence of many new nation-states. These particular forms of rights are best described by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
These rights were best described by the 17th- and 18th-century political theorists—such men as John Locke in England, Montesquieu in France, and Jefferson and others in the United States. They are the rights to life, liberty, privacy, the security of the individual, freedom of speech and press, freedom of worship, the right to own property, freedom from slavery, freedom from torture and unusual punishment, and similar rights as spelled out in the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Basic to individual rights is the concept of government as a shield against encroachment upon the person. Little is demanded from government but the right to be left alone. Government is not asked for anything except vigilance in safeguarding the rights of its citizens.
This concept of rights grew out of the socialist and Communist criticisms of capitalism and its perceived economic injustices: low wages, long working hours, unsafe working conditions, and child labor, among others. Social rights make demands on government for such things as quality education, jobs, adequate medical care, social-insurance programs, housing, and other benefits. Basically they call for a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and the family.
The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948. It urged the right to political, economic, social, and cultural self-determination; the right to peace; the right to live in a healthful and balanced environment; and the right to share in the Earth's resources. It also pledged the rights of life, liberty, and security of person—the basic human rights.
Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. So said the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. By “chains” he meant all limitations imposed by government or other institutions on the exercise of one's rights and freedoms. That individuals have rights that belong to them, independent of any interference from government, is a modern doctrine. Rousseau published his comment in 1762. Fourteen years later the American Declaration of Independence stated clearly that all people have certain rights that should never be taken from them. The term civil rights is linked strongly to the efforts of black Americans to obtain equality and the same rights under the law as whites have.
Human rights traditionally have been put in two categories, natural rights and civil rights. Natural rights are those that belong to individuals by virtue of their humanity: the right to remain alive, to sustain life with food and shelter, and to follow the dictates of their conscience.
Civil rights are based on positive law; they are derived from laws and judicial decisions. For example, if it is a natural right to own property, civil law may regulate what one does with that property. Civil law also determines such things as who shall vote, who shall be allowed to drive a car, the legal age for alcohol consumption, and whether businesses are allowed to operate on Sundays.
The two types of rights have become so intertwined as to be virtually identical in many respects. If a government has the power to abolish civil rights, it also has the power to destroy natural rights. An individual denied equality (a civil right) finds very little liberty (a natural right). And people without liberty find little enjoyment in equality.
For people to have their civil rights, two conditions are necessary: justice and equality. The early Christian philosopher Augustine of Hippo said in his ‘City of God' that “Where there is no true justice, there can be no right.” Justice is evenhandedness and fairness, so it cannot exist without equality of treatment under like conditions.
For example, each citizen is given one vote in an election. The wealthy are not given two or more votes because they are rich, nor are the poor given none because of their poverty.
The principle of equality has often been misunderstood. As the American educator–philosopher John Dewey noted, “It never asserted equality of natural gifts. It was a moral, a political, and legal principle.” People naturally differ in their physical and mental abilities, talents, and tastes and preferences. What political equality demands is that everyone must be treated under law with the same consideration and respect. This means, essentially, equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity exists within a context of freedom and the removal of legal and social discrimination.
If equality does not refer to a sameness of natural gifts, it also does not suggest sameness of social condition. A free society allows differences of social condition to develop as long as the opportunities to reach any level are equal.
In some cases civil law mandates differences. It has long been common for nations in time of war to draft men for combat. Women have traditionally been excluded from such a role. Similarly, even in a fair tax system those who are wealthier often pay a larger proportion of their incomes in taxes.
Although justice cannot exist without equality, equality can exist without justice. For example, when government decrees that social conditions be the same for all—that all persons be paid the same wages, for example, no matter what their jobs—this is egalitarianism. It is an attempt to make everyone share the same status. Such forced equality is a denial of justice and, therefore, a denial of rights and freedom.
The Long, Slow Struggle
Never before in human history, until the United States separated itself from Great Britain in 1776, was a government formed whose chief purpose was to protect its people's liberties and civil rights. The Constitution and its subsequent Bill of Rights were carefully crafted to protect citizens from the overbearing authority of government, church, great wealth, and the tyranny of majority opinions.
From the ancient world until the late Middle Ages, legal codes and constitutions lacked any guarantee of individual freedoms and rights. The idea of citizenship was rare. Apart from brief periods of limited democracy in Athens and Rome, along with a few other city–states, most people were subjects of governments under kings and emperors.
Even the first attempts to gain recognition for civil rights had nothing to do with the masses of population. They were conflicts between the class of nobles and the king in which the nobility demanded and got certain rights. In 1188 in Spain, for example, Alfonso IX of Leon granted the assembly of nobles certain rights, including the rights to life, honor, home, and property along with the right to a fair trial.
The most famous guarantee of rights ever given by a king to his nobles was the Magna Carta of 1215, signed by King John of England. Although by no means intended to give rights and freedoms to all the people, several of its provisions gave expression to the ideal of individual freedom .
The struggle for human liberty and civil rights is parallel to the slow growth of the idea of democracy in the Western world. Rights, as they were achieved, were usually set down in written documents that were considered legally binding upon governments. But it was only with the success of the American and French revolutions that the idea of liberty and rights for all citizens was popularized in Western society. These revolutions established the principle that government is created by people, not imposed upon them.
Socialism is a political and economic system in which most forms of economically valuable property and resources are owned or controlled by the public or the state. The term socialism also refers to any political or philosophical doctrine that advocates such a system. In a strictly socialist economy, public agencies influence—and in some cases actually decide—what kinds of goods and services are produced, how much they cost, the wages or salaries paid to people in different professions, and how much wealth a single individual may accumulate. Most socialist systems also provide citizens with significant social benefits, including guaranteed employment or unemployment insurance and free or heavily subsidized health care, child care, and education. Socialism is the major alternative to capitalism, a system in which most property is privately owned (by individuals or businesses) and the production of goods and services, as well as the distribution of income and wealth, are largely determined by the operation of free markets.
Socialists have objected to capitalism on a number of grounds. A completely unregulated capitalist economy, they argue, inevitably produces an unfair distribution of wealth—a small number of people become very rich, while a much larger number, sometimes even a majority, remain poor. The rich, in addition to living better than everyone else, inevitably use their wealth to influence the political system in unfair ways, or at least in ways not available to everyone else. Socialists also contend that a capitalist economy does not allow ordinary citizens to participate in various decisions that directly affect the economic life of their community or their daily lives as workers. In these respects, they believe, unregulated capitalism is incompatible with a fully democratic society. Finally, according to some socialists, because each individual in a capitalist economy pursues his or her own interests in competition with others, capitalism encourages selfishness and greed and discourages charity, compassion, and cooperation.
Critics of socialism, on the other hand, have argued that a capitalist economy is more efficient than a socialist one and that it generates more wealth overall, even if the wealth is not distributed evenly. In addition, they believe, socialism encourages passivity and dependence on the state for things one could do for oneself, while capitalism encourages independence and self-reliance.
Many different kinds of socialism have been proposed or practiced. These systems usually differ from each other in two main respects: (1) the extent and kind of property that is to be publicly owned or controlled and (2) the kind of institutions that own or control the property—specifically, whether they should be states (national governments), trade unions, workers' cooperatives (communities of workers in single craft or industry), or something else. Some socialists have held that the realm of public property should include nearly everything that can be owned—everything except personal possessions such as clothing, for example. Others have believed that it should include only the major industries and natural resources and that private ownership of small businesses should be permitted.
The intellectual history of socialism extends to the very beginnings of recorded thought. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that for as long as there has been private property, there have been people who were inspired to imagine what society would be like without it. Many such people have advocated communism—a form of socialism in which wealth is divided among citizens equally or according to individual need. Imaginary or hypothetical communist societies have been discussed by philosophers and other thinkers for centuries, including the ancient Greek philosopher Plato in his Republic and the English Renaissance scholar Thomas More in Utopia.
Communism was practiced by small communities of Christians in the 1st and 2nd centuries, and it was later adopted by some monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church. Short-lived communist communities were established by the Anabaptists, a radical Protestant sect, in 1534 and by the Diggers, a group of English farmers, in 1649.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, socialist speculation was inspired by the social consequences of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. The growth of new industries and the rise of the factory system of manufacturing attracted countless numbers of people from rural areas to the industrial cities. The vast majority, including children, toiled long hours, in harsh conditions, for meager pay. The efficient exploitation of the workers' labor generated great wealth for factory owners but ensured that the workers themselves remained impoverished. Socialist thinkers reacted not just to the obvious injustice of this situation but also to what they saw as its harmful effects on human character and on family and community life. People who are forced to perform dull and repetitive tasks for hours on end, they reasoned, will lose their natural initiative for work; people who are forced to compete with each other just to avoid starving will lose their natural regard for others; people who are treated, in their working lives, more or less like brutes will tend to become like brutes. In the opinion of these thinkers, these problems were the direct result of the institution of private property.
Types of Socialism
The word socialist was coined in about 1830 to describe various intellectuals and reformers who advocated some form of public control or ownership of productive property, including land. Thus socialism came to refer to the programs of these figures. The programs they proposed often included calls for greater equality of wealth and greater participation by ordinary people in the government of their communities.
Reformers who came to be known as “utopian” socialists advocated the establishment of ideal communities that would serve as models for the rest of society. One of the first utopian socialists was the French aristocrat Henri de Saint-Simon. Saint-Simon announced the imminent arrival of a new age he called “industrialism,” a system in which experts from science, technology, and industry would take the place of traditional political and economic leaders and direct the productive resources of society for the common good. The material needs of everyone would be met through rational central planning by enlightened civil servants, thus eliminating the main cause of disorder in industrial societies. Later followers of Saint-Simon insisted that his doctrine was inconsistent with private property, though Saint-Simon himself did not say this.
Saint-Simon's countryman Charles Fourier believed that modern industrial capitalism was the source of great misery and strife because it forced people to do dull, unsatisfying work and to compete with each other for scarce jobs. He argued that people have a natural desire to work at tasks that interest them and to live in harmony with others. His solution was to reorganize society into mostly self-sufficient communities of about 1,600 people. In these “phalanges,” most property would be communally owned and people would move from one kind of work to another as their tastes and interests changed. Several communities based on Fourier's ideas were founded in the United States in the second quarter of the 19th century, though all were short-lived.
In Britain one of the earliest socialists was, ironically, a factory owner, Robert Owen. His textile mills in Scotland were remarkably humane by the standards of his day. Like other socialists, he believed that capitalism produced harmful effects on human character and that these effects could be prevented through proper education, public control of industry, and communal living arrangements. Accordingly, he invested a significant amount of his own money in the creation of a socialist community, New Harmony, in Indiana. Its name notwithstanding, New Harmony was plagued by internal dissension, and the community dissolved after only three years.
Other Socialist Ideas
As the utopians planned their model communities, other socialists, many of them in France, advocated changing existing society directly. Louis Blanc promoted a plan whereby privately owned businesses would gradually be replaced by state-financed but worker-controlled “social workshops.” His contemporary Louis-Auguste Blanqui believed that capitalism would soon be replaced by a socialist system based on cooperative associations of workers. Because he was impatient with theorizing, however, he also participated in many violent revolutionary activities, and as a result he spent more than 33 years in prison.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is remembered primarily as one of the early theorists of anarchism, a form of socialism that advocates the destruction of the state, which it sees as an inherently oppressive and unjust institution. Proudhon proposed instead a society in which small, freely formed associations of workers or farmers would exchange goods with each other on the basis of mutually satisfactory contracts, independent of any involvement by the state. This principle of “mutualism” became an important current in later socialist thinking, representing one extreme among many views about the kind of institutions that should own or control public property. The opposite extreme, the view that all property should be controlled by the state on the workers' behalf, was a central feature of the theory of socialism developed by German philosopher and economist Karl Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels.
Marx and Engels are unquestionably the most important theorists of socialism (though their doctrine is more commonly called communism). According to Marx and Engels, the fundamental force in history, the source of all historical change, is the struggle between economic classes. Each stage of history can be characterized by the classes opposed to each other in that stage; the result of their struggle is a new stage characterized by different opposing classes. Thus, in ancient times, masters were opposed to slaves; in the Middle Ages, the aristocracy was opposed to the peasants or serfs; and in modern society, the bourgeoisie, or capitalist class, maintains its wealth and power by exploiting the labor of the proletariat, or working class. This opposition is unstable, however, because in the final stage of history—which Marx and Engels believed was imminent and inevitable—the proletariat will rise up in violent revolution, seizing the state and all means of production and establishing a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Eventually, as people lose the selfish attitudes produced by capitalism, the state will “wither away” as unnecessary. People will live in harmony and cooperation in a completely classless society.
Marx and Engels were influential in the emerging labor movement on the European continent, particularly in Germany. In 1864 Marx played a major role in the creation of the International Working Men's Association, also known as the First International. Formally established in London in 1864 by representatives from various countries, the First International brought together a wide assortment of intellectuals, revolutionaries, and reformers. Among them was the exiled Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who vehemently rejected Marx's claim that the dictatorship of the proletariat—a state ruled by workers—is a necessary step in the creation of a classless society. The clash between Marx and Bakunin led to the latter's expulsion from the First International and to the dissolution of the organization in 1876.
Socialism after Marx
Even before Marx's death in 1883, there was a split among his followers between those who believed in the necessity of violent revolution, as Marx himself maintained in most (though not all) of his writings, and those who held that the classless society could be brought about by peaceful means, through gradual political and economic changes. By 1889, when the Second International was formed, this division had hardened. Within the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of Germany, the dominant organization in the Second International, the rift was evident in the stark contrast between the party's platform, which adhered to orthodox Marxism, and its successful participation in electoral politics, which presupposed the possibility of peaceful change from within existing institutions. The party maintained its official rejection of the bourgeois state even as it greatly increased its representation in the German parliament at the end of the 19th century. The bitter conflict between the party's orthodox and “revisionist” wings continued for many years, finally ending in the victory of the revisionists.
In the late 19th century Marxist social-democratic parties were founded in a number of other countries of Western and Central Europe. All were torn by the same fundamental disagreement, and in all of them the revisionists eventually won out. The triumph of revisionism was well illustrated by the behavior of the national parties at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Until then, most socialists believed that the only war the proletariat should fight was the class war against the bourgeoisie. When world war came, however, most of them supported their own bourgeois states, thus abandoning the ideal of international working-class solidarity. The Second International was effectively dead.
Despite the demise of the International, orthodox Marxism did not disappear; it continued to be supported by an important minority within all the socialist parties. The most influential of the orthodox Marxists, Lenin (Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov), eventually led a coup that overthrew the provisional government of Russia following the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Other socialist viewpoints contributed to the international labor movement at the end of the 19th century. In Britain a form of revisionist socialism was promoted by the Fabian Society, a group of intellectuals and writers founded in 1884 that included George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. The Fabians attempted through their writings to influence government policy and legislation toward gradual and peaceful reforms that would eventually, they believed, lead to socialism.
Another form of socialism, this one closer to anarchism, originated in the French trade-union movement. Known as syndicalism (from the French word for trade union, syndicat), it called for “direct action” in the form of a general strike that would bring the economy to a halt and cause the government to collapse. The state would then be replaced by a federation of workers' cooperatives, organized by trade. Syndicalism and anarchism were influential in Italy and Spain in the early 20th century before they were destroyed by the Fascist governments of those countries.
Socialism from World War I to 1945
After the end of World War I, in 1919, Lenin tried to organize a Third, or Communist, International, but there was little interest among European social-democratic parties. By that time, mainstream socialists in Europe were committed to the goal of peaceful reform through democratic means. Without the participation of the democratic socialists, the Third International, also called the Comintern, became little more than an instrument of Soviet foreign policy.
The split between socialists and communists took institutional form as the orthodox wings of the old socialist parties broke away to become independent communist parties. The communists were generally hostile to the socialists for cooperating with their common enemy, the bourgeoisie. The socialists, meanwhile, criticized the communists for supporting a dictatorial regime in the Soviet Union and for failing to uphold democratic values in their own countries. Because of their electoral success as mass parties, the socialists were able to participate in and even lead coalition governments in Germany, France, Britain, Denmark, and Sweden in the 1920s and '30s. (For a variety of reasons, socialism failed to attract a large following in the United States.)
The economic crisis of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression encouraged communists in the West to believe that capitalism was in its death throes and that worldwide socialist revolution was at hand. Accordingly, they were even less inclined than before to cooperate with the socialists. In Germany this division was one of the factors that contributed to the collapse of the democratic Weimar Republic and the seizure of power by the Nazi Party, which shared some elements with fascism, in 1933. The Nazis moved immediately to eliminate both communists and socialists, first in Germany and later in Austria and other countries that Germany occupied or invaded. Communists and socialists were also suppressed in Italy and Spain.
During World War II, Britain, France, and the United States were forced into an uneasy military alliance with the Soviets in their common struggle against Fascism. After Germany was defeated in 1945, the Soviets imposed communist governments in the Eastern European countries newly occupied by Soviet armies. The ensuing period of hostility and distrust between the Soviet Union and the United States (and their respective allies), known as the Cold War, deepened the divisions between communists and socialists, though communist parties continued to operate legally in most Western countries. Except in Italy and France, however, Western communists generally remained an insignificant minority of the political left.
Socialism in the Postwar Period
In the first two decades after World War II, the socialist parties of Western Europe gradually dropped their former insistence on complete state ownership of industry and other productive resources, accepting the idea of a mixed economy of both public and private property, along with varying degrees of central planning and substantial social programs. This more modest socialist vision was implemented most successfully in Denmark and Sweden.
In 1959 the German SDP formally removed all references to Marx in its program. Having moved itself much closer to the political mainstream, the SDP enjoyed rapid growth and frequent electoral successes. Victorious in national elections in 1969, the party headed a series of coalition governments until 1982.
In Britain, the Labour Party, which had never been receptive to Marxism, won its first majority in Parliament in 1945. During the next six years it nationalized the railways and other major industries and created a national health service. Although the party was voted out of office in 1951, the changes it made to British society were accepted by a majority of the public, and they remained largely intact until the 1980s. France elected its first socialist president, François Mitterand, in 1981, but his ambitious nationalization program was undermined by a worldwide recession.
The most important recent event in the history of socialism is the collapse of Soviet communism, first in Eastern Europe in 1989 and then in the Soviet Union itself in 1991. By that time, many nominally communist or socialist countries were modifying their economies to allow for greater private ownership and market competition. The demise of the Soviet Union accelerated this process, in part because it deprived these countries of vital economic aid and in part because it set a powerful political example: it proved that the economic system on which the Soviet Union was built did not work.
These events naturally influenced the fortunes of the established socialist parties in the West. Many people believed that not only communism but all forms of socialism had been discredited. Socialists, of course, disputed this, but there was no denying that the political climate had changed. It was now a common theme of political discussion in the West that any significant interference by the state in the operation of the free market would be misguided.
In the early 21st century the future of socialism was uncertain. Very few authentically communist states remained (China remained officially communist, though it had adopted a capitalist economy), and no industrialized country was likely to adopt a strict form of socialism. Nevertheless, new socialist governments came to power in such Latin American countries as Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, and socialist governments in Chile and Venezuela continued their rule from the 1990s. All of these governments attempted to implement socialist economic reforms; their success depended on the level of domestic political support they enjoyed and their countries' relations with capitalist trading partners (primarily the United States) and international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Meanwhile, nearly all other industrialized countries in the West retained in some form the kind of social programs and regulations of industry that 20th-century socialists, among others, had promoted or directly introduced. The continued popularity of these measures reflected the extent to which socialist values and ideals—the dignity of work, the equal respect due every human being, the importance of fairness, the belief that people working together can change society for the better—had been gradually accepted throughout the world over the course of two centuries. This may prove to be the enduring legacy of socialism.
The word democracy literally means “rule by the people.” It is derived from a Greek word coined from the words demos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”) in the middle of the 5th century BC as a name for the political system that existed at the time in some of the cities of Greece, notably Athens. As a form of government, democracy contrasts with monarchy (rule by a king, queen, or emperor), oligarchy (rule by a few persons), aristocracy (rule by a privileged class), and despotism (absolute rule by a single person), the modern term for which is dictatorship.
The ancient Greeks were the first people to practice democracy in a community as large as a city. (Because Greek cities were politically independent of each other, they are often called “city-states.”) Some of the democratic institutions they created, especially the Assembly, were imitated in later democracies. The Greeks were also the first people to think about the nature and value of democracy in a logical and systematic way. Their ideas inspired later political scientists and philosophers to study how democracies actually work and to reflect on whether democracy is preferable to other forms of government.
The history of democracy can thus be considered from two points of view. It is first of all the history of the different kinds of democratic government that have been created throughout the world since the time of the ancient Greeks. But it is also the history of the ideas that people have had about what democracy is and why it should exist. This article will discuss the history of democracy from both of these perspectives.
History of Democratic Governments
Historically, there have been two main forms of democracy: “direct democracy,” or democracy by assembly, and “representative democracy.” Direct democracy was practiced in small communities, such as tribes and city-states, where it was possible for all (or nearly all) citizens to gather together in an assembly to discuss their community's problems and to pass laws or adopt policies by a majority vote of all those present.
Representative democracy was practiced in larger communities, such as the nation-states (countries) that developed in Europe and North America in the 18th century, where the sheer number of citizens made it impossible for all of them to meet in one place. Instead, citizens from different classes or geographic regions elected a much smaller number of representatives who met to pass laws on the citizens' behalf. Since the rise of the nation-states, direct democracy has become rare, though it is still practiced in some small towns in the New England region of the United States.
During the classical period of Greek history (roughly the 5th and 4th centuries BC), Greece was not a country in the modern sense but a collection of hundreds of small, independent city-states, each with its surrounding countryside. Under the leadership of the statesman Cleisthenes (570?–508? BC), the citizens of Athens developed a democracy that would last nearly two centuries.
The relatively small size of the city enabled the Athenians to practice a form of direct democracy. The most important institution of their government was the Assembly, which met 40 times a year on a hill known as the Pnyx. All adult male citizens were eligible (though not required) to participate in the Assembly. Women, children, foreign residents, and slaves were excluded. In the mid-4th century BC, the adult male citizens of Athens amounted to only about 12 percent of the number of people living in the city.
The Assembly had the power to make decisions on questions submitted to it by a smaller body known as the Council of Five Hundred. After a discussion open to all members, the Assembly voted on the question before it, with a simple majority determining the result. Voting was by show of hands.
In 411 BC, during the long Peloponnesian War between Athens and the Greek city-state of Sparta, a group known as the Four Hundred seized control of Athens and established an oligarchy. Less than a year later, the Four Hundred were overthrown and democracy was restored. In 321 BC, Athens was conquered by its powerful neighbor to the north, Macedonia, led by Alexander the Great. Under Macedonian rule, citizens who did not possess enough wealth were excluded from the Assembly. In 146 BC, when Athens was conquered by the Romans, the little that remained of Athenian democracy was destroyed. (See also ancient Greece.)
Democracy appeared in the Italian city-state of Rome at about the same time as it did in Athens. The Romans, who spoke Latin, called their system respublica (“republic”), meaning “the thing that belongs to the people.” Roman democracy lasted until roughly the end of the 1st century BC, when it was replaced by a monarchy headed by an emperor. Thus the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire.
Like the government of Athens, the government of Rome was originally designed for a city. Remarkably, the basic structure of this government remained the same throughout the Republican era, despite the fact that the territory controlled by Rome expanded dramatically to include the entire Mediterranean world and much of western Europe. In the late 1st century BC, even as they ruled over the largest empire on Earth, the Romans continued to govern themselves in assemblies, which they held in the Forum, a large open area between two of the city's seven hills.
The Roman system of government was an extremely complex form of direct democracy. It made use of four assemblies—one representing the ancient tribes of the city, one representing the military, one representing the plebeians, or common people, and one representing all citizens. There was also an extremely powerful Senate, whose members were chosen indirectly by the military assembly mainly from the ancient patrician, or aristocratic, class.
As in Athens, participation in the Roman assemblies was restricted to adult male citizens. As the Roman Republic expanded, it granted citizenship to many people within its enlarged boundaries. However, because Roman assemblies continued to meet in the Forum, most citizens who did not live in or near the city of Rome itself were unable to participate in them. In the later centuries of the Republic, when the territory controlled by Rome was very large, the vast majority of citizens were excluded from Roman democracy.
Europe and North America to the 20th Century
In about AD 800, freemen and nobles in various parts of northern Europe began to practice direct democracy in local assemblies. However, the people of these communities faced some common problems (especially the problem of self-defense) that could not be solved by one community alone but instead required several communities in a region to cooperate with each other. To coordinate their actions, the communities formed regional and national assemblies, the members of which were eventually elected, in whole or in part. Thus they began to practice a form of representative democracy.
Among the assemblies created in Europe during the Middle Ages, the one that most profoundly influenced the development of representative democracy was the English Parliament. Parliament grew out of regular councils attended by the English king and his nobles. Over time, it gradually began to perform important functions, such as raising revenue, and eventually it evolved into a legislative (law-making) body. By the 15th century, the adoption of laws in England required the passage of bills in both houses of Parliament—the House of Commons and the House of Lords—and the formal approval of the monarch.
In later centuries Parliament acquired more powers. By about 1800, the power to select the prime minister and his cabinet had shifted from the monarch to the House of Commons.
Although Parliament was then a powerful institution, the government of England was far from fully democratic. As in many earlier democratic systems, the right to vote was restricted to those who could demonstrate a certain amount of wealth. Because of these requirements, in 1830 only about 5 percent of the British population over 20 years of age was eligible to vote. The Reform Act of 1832 increased this number to about 7 percent, and later acts of Parliament (1867 to 1918) eventually extended the right to vote to all adult males. Women did not receive equal voting rights until 1928.
The British colonies of North America developed a system of representative democracy that was much more inclusive and broadly based than the parliamentary system then used in England. The colonies were governed by representative legislatures in which at least one house was elected by voters. In addition, in some colonies the right to vote was eventually extended to most adult white males.
After the American Revolution (1775–83), the colonies became the independent country of the United States. Because of the new country's enormous size, democracy was possible only through representative assemblies, which at the national, or federal, level became the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. The House and the Senate (together referred to as Congress) constitute the legislative branch of the federal government. The framers also created the office of president of the United States as the leader of the federal government's executive branch. The third branch of the federal government, the judicial branch, consists of the Supreme Court together with federal district courts and courts of appeal. The governments of the states are organized into similar legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Surprisingly, the president of the United States is not directly elected by the voters. Instead, he is elected by a special body known as the electoral college
When the United States became independent, representative democracy in the country was more inclusive than it was in Britain because a greater percentage of the population in the United States had the right to vote. However, even this percentage amounted to only a small minority of the total population. Women in the United States were denied the right to vote until passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. Most African Americans were enslaved, and thus ineligible to vote, until passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865. In 1870 the 15th Amendment guaranteed that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Nevertheless, for nearly a century afterward African Americans were prevented from voting by both legal and illegal means, primarily in the South but also in other areas of the country. Their right to vote was not fully protected until passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Native Americans suffered similar discrimination.
The history of democratic governments in the 18th and 19th centuries was marked by two other important developments: the rise of political parties and the fear of “majority tyranny.” In the 18th century, the members of representative assemblies in Britain and many other democratic countries began to organize themselves into political factions. Eventually, these factions became full-fledged political parties. The main functions of the parties were selecting candidates for election to public office and organizing support for (or opposition to) the policies of the prime minister or the president within the legislature.
Parties were regarded with suspicion by most political leaders until the 19th century. Indeed, the most common view of parties in the late 18th century was that they are a profound danger to democracy, for at least two reasons. First, it was argued, a party is by definition a group whose interests are narrower than the interests of the country as a whole. Therefore the goals it pursues will be inconsistent with the common good at least some of the time. Second, history was then thought to show that the existence of factions undermines democratic governments.
This was the view of most of the delegates to the United States Constitutional Convention, where the Constitution was drafted in 1787. In the opinion of James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution and the future fourth president of the United States, the “instability, injustice, and confusion” introduced by factions are “the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.”
However, Madison soon changed his mind. He realized that in a representative democracy, it is inevitable that political factions will be created. In addition, once the faction known as the Federalists had been formed, Madison thought that another faction needed to exist in order to defeat the Federalists' policies, which he strongly opposed. Madison even came to think that factions were good for democracy, because they helped to organize the members of legislature, thereby helping the majority to prevail over the minority. Many other political theorists came to share these views. By the end of the 19th century, it was widely accepted that parties are an essential institution in any democracy.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, most political leaders in democratic countries believed that the right to vote should not be extended to all adults, because not all of them could be counted upon to use their votes wisely and responsibly. In particular, these leaders feared that granting the vote to members of the lower classes would result in a tyranny of the majority in which the rights of the property-owning minority would be violated and their wealth taken from them. As Benjamin Franklin, the statesman and inventor, once said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”
This fear of majority tyranny gradually disappeared, as political leaders in various democratic countries realized that the rights and interests of the wealthy, as well as those of other minorities, could be protected by introducing safeguards into the country's constitution. Such safeguards could include adding a bill of rights to the constitution, requiring a “supermajority” of votes (such as a majority of two thirds or three quarters instead of one half of the votes plus one) to pass important legislation, establishing a “separation of powers” between the different branches of government so that no single branch acquires too much power, and giving courts the power to nullify laws or policies that they decide are in violation of the constitution. By the end of the 19th century, many democratic countries had adopted these and other constitutional provisions aimed at protecting minority rights.
Democracy in the 20th and 21st Centuries
During the 20th century, the number of democratic countries in the world increased dramatically. At the beginning of the 21st century, more than one third of the world's countries were full-fledged democracies, and another one sixth had at least some democratic institutions. Together, these democratic and near-democratic countries contained nearly half the world's population.
This spectacular success was due to a number of factors. Probably the most important was the simple fact that by the end of the 20th century all the main alternatives to democracy had failed. After Germany and Austria-Hungary were defeated by the democratic Allies in World War I, their monarchical and aristocratic governments were overthrown, and people ceased to believe that monarchy and aristocracy were legitimate forms of government. Fascism also lost whatever legitimacy it had after the defeat of Italy and Germany in World War II and especially after the crimes committed by the Nazi regime became widely known. Soviet-style Communism lost nearly all its appeal after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990–91.
Another important factor in the success of democracy was the worldwide growth of free market economies. In many nondemocratic countries, the economy was highly centralized and largely under the control of the government. This enabled political leaders to use economic resources—such as good jobs and access to imported luxury items—to reward their friends and punish their enemies. As some of these countries adopted free market economic reforms, their economies gradually became more decentralized, and the economic power of political leaders declined. At the same time, the growing prosperity of the general population and especially the development of a middle class created demands for increased economic freedom and greater democracy.
Contemporary Democratic Systems
Contemporary democratic governments differ from each other in a variety of ways, but they also have a number of institutions in common. Political scientists have used these common institutions to identify a few basic kinds of democratic political system.
Presidential and Parliamentary Systems
As former European colonies in Latin America and Africa became independent, many of them adopted a presidential system of government similar to that of the United States. In contrast, most European countries had by this time adopted a parliamentary system modeled on the form of government used in Britain.
In the parliamentary system, the leader of the government, the prime minister, is not elected separately from the members of the legislature, as he is in the presidential system. Instead, the party that wins the largest number of seats in the legislature forms a government, by itself or in coalition with other parties, and its leader becomes prime minister. In many countries that use the parliamentary system, there is also a head of state, whose role may be purely ceremonial. The head of state may be a hereditary monarch, as in the United Kingdom, Spain, and The Netherlands, or he may be chosen by the legislature, as in Israel. The government of France is an unusual combination of both the presidential and parliamentary systems.
Federal and Unitary Systems
The government of the United States is known as a federal system because the Constitution divides power between the central, or national, government and the governments of the states. This division of power is explicitly expressed in the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which says that, “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In contrast, the governments of most European countries are unitary systems, because in them all authority is held by the national government. Democratic countries that have adopted federal systems include—in addition to the United States—Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Canada, and Australia. The world's most populous democratic country, India, also has a federal system.
Winner-Take-All and Proportional Systems
In the United States and some other democratic countries, the territory of the country is divided into districts, and each district is assigned a particular seat in the legislature. In elections to the legislature in such countries, the winner of a seat is the candidate who receives the most votes in the corresponding district. This system is called “winner take all” in the United States and “first past the post” in Britain.
In proportional systems, each district is usually assigned multiple seats in the legislature, and seats are awarded to different parties based on the proportion of votes they receive in the district. (In some countries or elections, seats may be awarded based on the proportion of votes the parties receive throughout the entire country.) For example, if a party receives 25 percent of the total votes cast in the district, it is assigned 25 percent of the district's seats in the legislature. Most European countries use the proportional system, as does Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea.
One criticism of the winner-take-all system is that it results in larger parties being overrepresented in the legislature and smaller parties being underrepresented. This is because it is possible for a smaller party to receive a significant share of the vote in most districts but win few of them (or even none of them) outright. A criticism of the proportional system is that it results in too many small parties being admitted to the legislature, giving them a kind of “veto” power over legislation favored by the larger parties.
Two-Party and Multiparty Systems
Because the proportional system does not favor large parties over small ones, in countries that use this system there are almost always three or more parties represented in the legislature. Governments usually consist of a coalition in which two or more parties divide important leadership posts (though the job of prime minister is usually held by the leader of the largest party in the coalition). In two-party systems, usually no more than two parties are ever represented in the legislature. This system is used in the United States but is extremely rare in the rest of the world.
History of Democratic Ideas
As noted above, the history of democracy involves not only the various kinds of democratic government that have been created but also the ideas that people have had about the nature and value of democracy. Not surprisingly, the first important contributions to the “theory of democracy,” as this kind of thinking is sometimes called, were made by the ancient Greeks, and particularly by philosophers and political leaders who were citizens or residents of Athens.
One of the first recorded defenses of democracy is a speech by the Athenian leader Pericles (495?–429 BC), which he gave at a funeral held in 430 BC for Athenians who had been killed in the Peloponnesian War with Sparta. Democratic Athens was admirable among Greek cities, he argued, because its citizens were treated fairly and because they enjoyed a high degree of freedom in their dealings with each other. “If we look to the laws,” he said,
they afford equal justice to all in their private differences;…advancement in public life [depends on] capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way; if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by [the] obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life
About a century later, the philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC) devised a classification of political systems that would influence political thinkers for the next 2,000 years. He identified three kinds of government, which differed according to the number of people allowed to rule—one, few, or many. Each kind of government also had both an “ideal” form and a corrupt form. In an ideal form of government, the rulers pursue what is best for everyone; in a corrupt form, they pursue what is best only for themselves.
According to this classification, the ideal form of rule by the many is something Aristotle called “polity,” a mixed form of government that includes some features similar to those in a modern constitutional democracy. He identified the corrupt form of government by the many as democracy, which he associated with lawlessness and mob rule. Aristotle's unfavorable view of democracy is puzzling, and it probably did not reflect the opinion of most Greeks in his time, especially in Athens.
About 20 centuries after Aristotle, the English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) composed a very sophisticated defense of democracy and individual rights. This work, the Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), was subversive and revolutionary for its time, because it argued for democracy in an age when most European countries, including England, were ruled by monarchs with nearly absolute power.
Locke imagined a time before the creation of societies, when human beings lived in a state of perfect equality and freedom, a condition he called the “state of nature.” In the state of nature, people would have certain “natural” rights, including the right to private property. In order to protect their rights from violation by others, they would make a “social contract” with each other to establish a government with the power to punish people who violate other people's rights. The government would also have the power to defend the entire community against attacks from outside.
Because it is established by the people, such a government would be legitimate only if it did what the people decided it should do. Locke transferred this conclusion from imaginary governments created in the state of nature to the actual governments existing in his own day. He insisted that the authority of any government derives from the consent of the governed. Furthermore, if a government violates the people's natural rights or fails to protect them, the people are entitled to overthrow it—even, if necessary, with violence.
Locke's views profoundly influenced many later philosophers and political leaders, including Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), the author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States. Locke's influence on the Declaration is evident in the very first paragraph:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it….
The English philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806–73) is remembered for his powerful defense of individual freedom, as well as for his views on ethics. The freedoms that Mill defended, such as freedom of speech and freedom of association, were not well established in Britain or elsewhere in Europe during the 19th century, and in fact they had many enemies. However, as Mill realized, democracy is impossible unless they are carefully protected.
In his work On Liberty (1859), Mill claimed that the only circumstances in which it is right to interfere with the freedom of an individual is when his action (or inaction) would cause harm to other people. If his action (or inaction) would harm only himself, government and society must allow him to do as he pleases (provided that he is an adult and fully understands the consequences of his action or inaction). However, many laws in existence in Mill's time and even today are inconsistent with this principle, because they try to prevent people from doing things that would harm only themselves or to force people to do things that would be good for themselves. Examples are laws that prohibit or restrict the use of alcohol by adults, laws against the use of drugs such as marijuana, and laws that require people riding in cars to wear seat belts.
Mill also argued that legal restrictions on the free expression of opinion are always wrong, no matter how false or dangerous the opinion being expressed may seem. In another work, Considerations on Representative Government (1861), he argued passionately that women should have the same right to vote as men. This view had been ignored or rejected by almost all previous political philosophers (all of whom were men).
According to the U.S. philosopher John Dewey (1859–1952), democracy is the best form of government, because only democracy allows people the kinds of freedom they need to develop to their full potential. These freedoms include the freedom to exchange ideas and opinions with others, the freedom to form associations with others to pursue common goals, the freedom to decide one's own moral values, and the freedom to pursue one's idea of a “good life,” whatever that may be.
Dewey thought that democracy is more than just a form of government. It is also a way of life in which people cooperate with each other to solve their common problems in a rational way and in a spirit of mutual respect and goodwill. Because participating in a democracy requires citizens to be reflective, cooperative, and respectful of the needs of others, Dewey thought that these habits of mind needed to be taught to children in public schools from an early age. In fact, Dewey called the public schools “the church of democracy.” His contributions to the philosophy and practice of education were extremely influential in the United States in the 20th century.
RawlsThe U.S. philosopher John Rawls (1921–2002) is widely regarded as the most important political thinker of the 20th century. In A Theory of Justice (1971), he tried to defend the democratic values of fairness, equality, and individual rights using the concept of a social contract, which had been largely neglected in philosophy since the 18th century.
Rawls imagined a situation in which a group of people are isolated from society and then caused to “forget” certain facts about themselves, such as facts about their sex, race, religion, education, wealth, intelligence, and talents or skills. They are then asked to decide what general rules or principles they would like their government to follow.
Because the members of the group do not know what position in society they occupy, they are compelled to choose principles that will ensure that they are treated fairly and that their rights are respected, no matter who they are or where they come from. Therefore, from behind this “veil of ignorance,” they would choose principles like the following:
Everyone should have a maximum and equal degree of liberty.
Everyone should have an equal opportunity to pursue jobs, education, and other sources of wealth and power.
Inequality of wealth should be permitted, but only if those who are poorest are as well-off as they can be.
(Rawls thought that some inequality of wealth was necessary in order to motivate people to be productive. The last principle means that whatever inequality of wealth there is should be the minimum necessary to make everyone as well-off as possible.)
Criticisms of Democracy
Most of the philosophers and political leaders discussed above believed that democracy is a good form of government, if not the best. However, other thinkers have argued that democracy is actually a bad form of government, if not the worst.
Perhaps the most famous critic of democracy is the Greek philosopher Plato (428/427–348/347 BC). In fact, most later criticisms of democracy were simply variations on what Plato said. According to Plato and others, most people are incapable of participating in government in a meaningful or competent way, because they lack the necessary knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, experience, or character. Plato himself thought that the best government would be an aristocracy of “philosopher-kings.”
The view that most people are incapable of governing themselves has been expressed not only by kings and aristocratic rulers but also by intellectuals, religious leaders, and other authorities. In fact, this opinion was dominant throughout the world during most of recorded history until the early 20th century.
No doubt there will be critics of democracy for as long as democratic governments exist. Whether these critics will be successful in attracting followers and undermining democracy will depend on how well democratic governments meet the new challenges and crises that are all but certain to occur.
What is Inclusive Democracy? The contours of Inclusive DemocracyInclusive democracy is a new conception of democracy, which, using as a starting point the classical definition of it, expresses democracy in terms of direct political democracy, economic democracy (beyond the confines of the market economy and state planning), as well as democracy in the social realm and ecological democracy. In short, inclusive democracy is a form of social organisation which re-integrates society with economy, polity and nature. The concept of inclusive democracy is derived from a synthesis of two major historical traditions, the classical democratic and the socialist, although it also encompasses radical green, feminist, and liberation movements in the South. Within the problematique of the inclusive democracy project, it is assumed that the world, at the beginning of the new millennium, faces a multi-dimensional crisis (economic, ecological, social, cultural and political) which is caused by the concentration of power in the hands of various elites, as a result of the establishment, in the last few centuries, of the system of market economy, representative democracy and the related forms of hierarchical structure. In this sense, an inclusive democracy, which involves the equal distribution of power at all levels, is seen not as a utopia (in the negative sense of the word) but as perhaps the only way out of the present crisis.
The conception of inclusive democracyA fruitful way to define inclusive democracy may be to distinguish between the two main societal realms, the public and the private, to which we may add an "ecological realm", defined as the sphere of the relations between the natural and the social worlds. In this conception, the public realm, contrary to the practice of many supporters of the republican or democratic project (Hannah Arendt, Cornelius Castoriadis , Murray Bookchin et al) includes not just the political realm, but also the economic realm as well as a ‘social’ realm; in other words, any area of human activity in which decisions can be taken collectively and democratically. The political realm is defined as the sphere of political decision-taking, the area in which political power is exercised. The economic realm is defined as the sphere of economic decision-taking, the area in which economic power is exercised with respect to the broad economic choices that any scarcity society has to make. Finally, the social realm is defined as the sphere of decision-taking in the workplace, the education place and any other economic or cultural institution which is a constituent element of a democratic society.
It is therefore obvious that the extension of the traditional public realm to include the economic, ecological and ‘social’ realms is an indispensable element of an inclusive democracy. Correspondingly, we may distinguish between four main constituent elements of an inclusive democracy: the political, the economic, 'democracy in the social realm' and the ecological. The first three elements constitute the institutional framework which aims at the equal distribution of (respectively) political, economic and social power; in other words, the system which aims at the effective elimination of the domination of human being over human being. Similarly, ecological democracy is defined as the institutional framework which aims at the elimination of any human attempt to dominate the natural world, in other words, the system which aims to reintegrate humans and nature.
Political or direct democracyIn the political realm there can only be one form of democracy: what we may call political or direct democracy, in which political power is shared equally among all citizens. Political democracy is, therefore, founded on the equal distribution of political power among all citizens, the self-instituting of society. This means that the following conditions have to be satisfied for a society to be characterised as a political democracy:
1. that democracy is grounded on the conscious choice of its citizens for individual and social autonomy and not on any divine or mystical dogmas and preconceptions, or any closed theoretical systems involving natural or economic ‘laws’, or tendencies determining social change.
2. that there are no institutionalised political processes of an oligarchic nature. This implies that all political decisions (including those relating to the formation and execution of laws) are taken by the citizen body collectively and without representation;
3. that there are no institutionalised political structures embodying unequal power relations. This means, for instance, that where authority is delegated to segments of the citizen body for the purpose of carrying out specific duties (e.g., serving in popular courts, or regional and confederal councils, etc.), the delegation is assigned, on principle, by lot and on a rotational basis, and it is always recallable by the citizen body. Furthermore, as regards delegates to regional and confederal bodies, the mandates should be specific.
4. that all residents of a particular geographical area (which today can only take the form of a geographical community), beyond a certain age of maturity (to be defined by the citizen body itself) and irrespective of gender, race, ethnic or cultural identity, are members of the citizen body and are directly involved in the decision-taking process.
However, the institutionalisation of direct democracy in terms of the above conditions is only the necessary condition for the establishment of democracy. The sufficient condition refers to the citizens’ level of democratic consciousness, in which a crucial role is played by paedeia --involving not simply education but character development and a well-rounded education in knowledge and skills, i.e. the education of the individual as citizen, which alone can give substantive content to the public space.
The above conditions are obviously not met by parliamentary democracy (as it functions in the West), soviet democracy (as it functioned in the East) and the various fundamentalist or semi-military regimes in the South. All these regimes are therefore forms of political oligarchy, in which political power is concentrated in the hands of various elites (professional politicians, party bureaucrats, priests, military and so on). Similarly, in the past, various forms of oligarchies dominated the political domain, when emperors, kings and their courts, with or without the co-operation of knights, priests and others, concentrated political power in their hands.
However, several attempts have been made in history to institutionalise various forms of direct democracy, especially during revolutionary periods (for example, the Parisian sections of the early 1790s, the Spanish collectives in the civil war etc.). Most of these attempts were short-lived and usually did not involve the institutionalisation of democracy as a new form of political regime which replaces, and not just complements, the State. In other cases, democratic arrangements were introduced as a set of procedures for local decision-making. Perhaps the only real parallel which can be drawn with respect to Athenian democracy is that of some Swiss cantons which were governed by assemblies of the people (Landsgemeinden) and, in their day, were sovereign states.The only historical example of an institutionalised direct democracy in which, for almost two centuries (508/7 BC- 322/1 BC), the state was subsumed into the democratic form of social organisation, is that of Athenian democracy. Of course, Athenian democracy was a partial political democracy. But, what characterised it as partial was not the political institutions themselves but the very narrow definition of full citizenship adopted by the Athenians — a definition which excluded large sections of the population (women, slaves, immigrants) who, in fact, constituted the vast majority of the people living in Athens.
Economic DemocracyIf we define political democracy as the authority of the people (demos) in the political sphere — which implies the existence of political equality in the sense of equal distribution of political power — then economic democracy could be correspondingly defined as the authority of demos in the economic sphere —which implies the existence of economic equality in the sense of equal distribution of economic power. And, of course, we are talking about the demos and not the state, because the existence of a state means the separation of the citizen body from the political and economic process. Economic democracy therefore relates to every social system which institutionalises the integration of society and the economy. This means that, ultimately, the demos controls the economic process, within an institutional framework of demotic ownership of the means of production
In a more narrow sense, economic democracy also relates to every social system which institutionalises the minimisation of socio-economic differences, particularly those arising out of the unequal distribution of private property and the consequent unequal distribution of income and wealth. Historically, it is in this narrow sense that attempts were made by socialists to introduce economic democracy. Therefore, in contrast to the institutionalisation of political democracy, there has never been a corresponding example of an institutionalised economic democracy in the broad sense defined above. In other words, even when socialist attempts to reduce the degree of inequality in the distribution of income and wealth were successful, they were never associated with meaningful attempts to establish a system of equal distribution of economic power. This has been the case, despite the fact that in the type of society which has emerged since the rise of the market economy, there has been a definite shift of the economy from the private realm into what Hannah Arendt called the "social realm", to which the nation-state also belongs. But, it is this shift which makes any talk about democracy, which does not also refer to the question of economic power, ring hollow. In other words, to talk today about the equal sharing of political power, without conditioning it on the equal sharing of economic power, is meaningless.
On the basis of the definition of political democracy given earlier, the following conditions have to be satisfied for a society to be characterised as an economic democracy:
1. that there are no institutionalised economic processes of an oligarchic nature. This means that all ‘macro’ economic decisions, namely, decisions concerning the running of the economy as a whole (overall level of production, consumption and investment, amounts of work and leisure implied, technologies to be used, etc.) are taken by the citizen body collectively and without representation, although "micro" economic decisions at the workplace or the household levels are taken by the individual production or consumption unit and
2. that there are no institutionalised economic structures embodying unequal economic power relations. This implies that the means of production and distribution are collectively owned and controlled by the demos, the citizen body directly. Any inequality of income is therefore the result of additional voluntary work at the individual level. Such additional work, beyond that required by any capable member of society for the satisfaction of basic needs, allows only for additional consumption, as no individual accumulation of capital is possible, and any wealth accumulated as a result of additional work is not inherited . Thus, demotic ownership of the economy provides the economic structure for democratic ownership, whereas direct citizen participation in economic decisions provides the framework for a comprehensively democratic control process of the economy. The community, therefore, becomes the authentic unit of economic life, since economic democracy is not feasible today unless both the ownership and control of productive resources are organised at the community level. So, unlike the other definitions of economic democracy, the definition given here involves the explicit negation of economic power and implies the authority of the people in the economic sphere. In this sense, economic democracy is the counterpart, as well as the foundation, of direct democracy and of an inclusive democracy in general.
A model of economic democracy, as an integral part of an inclusive democracy, is described in the first book-length description of Inclusive Democracy which was published in 1997 (see further reading).
Briefly, the dominant characteristic of this model, which differentiates it from similar models of centralised or decentralised Planning, is that, although it does not depend on the prior abolition of scarcity, it does secure the satisfaction of the basic needs of all citizens, without sacrificing freedom of choice, in a stateless, moneyless and marketless economy. The preconditions of economic democracy are defined as follows:
- community self-reliance
- community (demotic) ownership of productive resources, and
- confederal allocation of resource
The third condition in particular implies that the decision mechanism for the allocation of scarce resources in an inclusive democracy should be based at the confederal rather than the community level, i.e. at the level of the confederation of communities (demoi). This is in order to take into account the fact that in today’s’ societies many problems cannot be solved at the community level (energy, environment, transportation, communication, technology transfer etc.). The mechanism proposed to allocate scarce resources aims to replace both the market mechanism and the central planning mechanism.
The former is rejected because it can be shown that the system of the market economy has led, in the last two hundred years since its establishment, to a continuous concentration of income and wealth at the hands of a small percentage of the world population and, consequently, to a distorted allocation of world resources. This is because in a market economy the crucial allocation decisions (what to produce, how and for whom to produce it) are conditioned by the purchasing power of those income groups which can back their demands with money. In other words, under conditions of inequality, which is an inevitable outcome of the dynamic of the market economy, the fundamental contradiction with respect to the market satisfaction of human needs becomes obvious: namely, the contradiction between the potential satisfaction of the basic needs of the whole population versus the actual satisfaction of the money-backed wants of part of it.
The latter is rejected because it can be shown that centralised planning, although better than the market system in securing employment and meeting the basic needs of citizens (albeit at an elementary level), not only leads to irrationalities (which eventually precipitated its actual collapse) and is ineffective in covering non-basic needs, but it is also highly undemocratic.
The system of allocation proposed by the Inclusive Democracy project aims to satisfy the twofold aim of:
- meeting the basic needs of all citizens-- which requires that basic macro-economic decisions are taken democratically and
- securing freedom of choice-- which requires the individual to take important decisions affecting his/her own life (what work to do, what to consume etc.).
Both the macro-economic decisions and the individual citizens’ decisions are envisaged as being implemented through a combination of democratic planning-- which involves the creation of a feedback process between workplace assemblies, community assemblies and the confederal assembly-- and an artificial ‘market’ which secures real freedom of choice, without incurring the adverse effects associated with real markets. In a nutshell, the allocation of economic resources is made first, on the basis of the citizens’ collective decisions, as expressed through the community and confederal plans, and second, on the basis of the citizens’ individual choices, as expressed through a voucher system. The general criterion for the allocation of resources is not efficiency as it is currently defined, in narrow techno- economic terms. Efficiency should be redefined to mean effectiveness in satisfying human needs and not just money-backed wants. As far as the meaning of needs is concerned, a distinction is drawn between basic and non-basic needs and a similar one between needs and ‘satisfiers’ (the form or the means by which these needs are satisfied). What constitutes a need --basic or otherwise-- is determined by the citizens themselves democratically. Then, the level of need-satisfaction is determined collectively and implemented through a democratic planning mechanism, whereas the satisfiers for both basic and non-basic needs are determined through the revealed preferences of consumers, as expressed by the use of vouchers allocated to them in exchange for their ‘basic’ and ‘non-basic’ work.Basic vouchers (BVs--allocated in exchange for ‘basic’ work, i.e. the number of hours of work required by each citizen in a job of his/her choice so that basic needs are met) are used for the satisfaction of basic needs. These vouchers-- which are personal and issued on behalf of the confederation-- entitle each citizen to a given level of satisfaction for each particular type of need which has been characterised (democratically) as ‘basic’, but do not specify the particular type of satisfier, so that choice may be secured.
Non-basic vouchers (NBVs — allocated in exchange for non-basic work) are used for the satisfaction of non-basic needs (non-essential consumption) as well as for the satisfaction of basic needs beyond the level prescribed by the confederal assembly. NBVs, like BVs, are also personal but are issued on behalf of each community, rather than on behalf of the confederation. Work by citizens over and above the ‘basic’ number of hours is voluntary and entitles them to NBVs, which can be used towards the satisfaction of non-essential needs. ‘Prices’ in this system, instead of reflecting scarcities relative to a skewed income and wealth pattern (as in the market economy system), function as rationing devices to match scarcities relative to citizens’ desires, i.e. as guides for a democratic allocation of resources. Therefore, prices, instead of being the cause of rationing — as in the market system — become the effect of it and are assigned the role of equating demand and supply in an artificial "market" which secures the sovereignty of both consumers and producers. The ‘prices’ formed in this way, together with a complex ‘index of desirability’ drawn on the basis of citizens’ preferences as to the type of work which citizens wish to do, determine a ‘subjective‘ rate of remuneration for non basic work, in place of the ‘objective’ rate suggested by the labour theory of value.
As the above brief description of the model of economic democracy makes clear, the project for an inclusive democracy refers to a future international political economy which transcends both the political economy of state socialism, as realised in the countries of the ex ‘actually existing socialism’ in Eastern Europe, and the political economy of the market economy, either in its mixed economy form of the social democratic consensus, or in its present neo-liberal form.
Democracy in the social realm
The satisfaction of the above conditions for political and economic democracy would represent the re-conquering of the political and economic realms by the public realm-- that is, the reconquering of a true social individuality, the creation of the conditions of freedom and self-determination, both at the political and the economic levels. However, political and economic power are not the only forms of power and, therefore, political and economic democracy do not, by themselves, secure an inclusive democracy. In other words, an inclusive democracy is inconceivable unless it extends to the broader social realm to embrace the workplace, the household, the educational institution and indeed any economic or cultural institution which constitutes an element of this realm.
Historically, various forms of democracy in the social realm have been introduced, particularly during this century, usually in periods of revolutionary activity. However, these forms of democracy were not only short-lived but seldom extended beyond the workplace (e.g. Hungarian workers' councils in 1956) and the education institution (e.g. Paris student assemblies in 1968).
The issue today is how to extend democracy to other forms of social organisation, like the household, without dissolving the private/public realm divide. In other words, how, while maintaining and enhancing the autonomy of the two realms, such institutional arrangements are adopted which introduce democracy to the household and the social realm in general and -- at the same time — enhance the institutional arrangements of political and economic democracy. In fact, an effective democracy is inconceivable unless free time is equally distributed among all citizens, and this condition can never be satisfied as long as the present hierarchical conditions in the household, the workplace and elsewhere continue. Furthermore, democracy in the social realm, particularly in the household, is impossible, unless such institutional arrangements are introduced which recognise the character of the household as a needs-satisfier and integrate the care and services provided within its framework into the general scheme of needssatisfaction
Ecological DemocracyIf we see democracy as a process of social self-institution in which there is no divinely or ‘objectively’ defined code of human conduct there are no guarantees that an inclusive democracy would secure an ecological democracy in the sense defined above. Therefore, the replacement of the market economy by a new institutional framework of inclusive democracy constitutes only the necessary condition for a harmonious relation between the natural and social worlds. The sufficient condition refers to the citizens’ level of ecological consciousness. Still, the radical change in the dominant social paradigm which will follow the institution of an inclusive democracy, combined with the decisive role that paedeia will play in an environmentally-friendly institutional framework, could reasonably be expected to lead to a radical change in the human attitude towards Nature. In other words, there are strong grounds for believing that the relationship between an inclusive democracy and Nature would be much more harmonious than could ever be achieved in a market economy, or one based on state socialism. The factors supporting this view refer to all three elements of an inclusive democracy: political, economic and social.
At the political level, there are grounds for believing that the creation of a public space will in itself have a very significant effect on reducing the appeal of materialism. This is because the public space will provide a new meaning of life to fill the existential void that the present consumer society creates. The realisation of what it means to be human could reasonably be expected to throw us back toward Nature.
Also, at the economic level, it is not accidental that, historically, the process of destroying the environment en masse has coincided with the process of marketization of the economy. In other words, the emergence of the market economy and of the consequent growth economy had crucial repercussions on the society-Nature relationship and led to the rise of the ideology of growth as the dominant social paradigm. Thus, an ‘instrumentalist’ view of Nature became dominant, in which Nature was seen as an instrument for economic growth, within a process of endless concentration of power. If we assume that only a confederal society could secure an inclusive democracy today, it would be reasonable to assume further that once the market economy is replaced by a democratically run confederal economy, the grow-or-die dynamics of the former will be replaced by the new social dynamic of the latter: a dynamic aiming at the satisfaction of the community needs and not at growth per se. If the satisfaction of community needs does not depend, as at present, on the continuous expansion of production to cover the ‘needs’ which the market creates, and if the link between economy and society is restored, then there is no reason why the present instrumentalist view of Nature should continue to condition human behaviour.
Furthermore, democracy in the broader social realm could also be reasonably expected to be environmentally-friendly. The phasing out of patriarchal relations in the household and hierarchical relations in general should create a new ethos of non-domination which would embrace both Nature and Society. In other words, the creation of democratic conditions in the social realm should be a decisive step in the creation of the sufficient condition for a harmonious nature-society relationship.
Finally, the fact that the basic unit of social, economic and political life in a confederal democracy would be the community might also be expected to enhance its environmentally-friendly character. It is reasonable to assume — and the evidence of the remarkable success of local communities in safeguarding their environments is overwhelming — that when people rely directly on their natural surroundings for their livelihood, they will develop an intimate knowledge of those surroundings, which will necessarily affect positively their behaviour towards them. However, the precondition for local control of the environment to be successful is that the community depends on its natural surroundings for its long-term livelihood and that it, therefore, has a direct interest in protecting it —another reason why an ecological society is impossible without economic democracy.
A new conception of citizenshipThe above conditions for democracy imply a new conception of citizenship: economic, political, social and cultural. Thus, political citizenship involves new political structures and the return to the classical conception of politics (direct democracy). Economic citizenship involves new economic structures of community ownership and control of economic resources (economic democracy). Social citizenship involves self-management structures at the workplace, democracy in the household and new welfare structures in which all basic needs (to be democratically determined) are covered by community resources, whether they are satisfied in the household or at the community level. Finally, cultural citizenship involves new democratic structures of dissemination and control of information and culture (mass media, art, etc.), which allow every member of the community to take part in the process and at the same time develop his/her intellectual and cultural potential.
Although this sense of citizenship implies a sense of political community, which, defined geographically, is the fundamental unit of political, economic and social life, still, it is assumed that this political community interlocks with various other communities (cultural, professional, ideological, etc.). Therefore, the community and citizenship arrangements do not rule out cultural differences or other differences based on gender, age, ethnicity and so on but simply provide the public space in which such differences can be expressed; furthermore, these arrangements institutionalise various safety valves that aim to rule out the marginalisation of such differences by the majority. What, therefore, unites people in a political community, or a confederation of communities, is not some set of common values, imposed by a nationalist ideology, a religious dogma, a mystical belief, or an ‘objective’ interpretation of natural or social ‘evolution’, but the democratic institutions and practices, which have been set up by citizens themselves.
It is obvious that the above new conception of citizenship has very little in common with the liberal and socialist definitions of citizenship which are linked to the liberal and socialist conceptions of human rights respectively. Thus, for the liberals, the citizen is simply the individual bearer of certain freedoms and political rights recognised by law which, supposedly, secure equal distribution of political power. Also, for the socialists, the citizen is the bearer not only of political rights and freedoms but, also, of some social and economic rights, whereas for Marxists the citizenship is realised with the collective ownership of the means of production. The conception of citizenship adopted here, which could be called a democratic conception, is based on the above definition of inclusive democracy and presupposes a ‘participatory’ conception of active citizenship, like the one implied by the work of Hannah Arendt. In this conception, political activity is not a means to an end, but an end in itself. It is, therefore, obvious that this conception of citizenship is qualitatively different from the liberal and social-democratic conceptions which adopt an ‘instrumentalist’ view of citizenship, i.e. a view which implies that citizenship entitles citizens with certain rights which they can exercise as means to the end of individual welfare.