Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tapping Summary: Democracy

So democracy went a little something like this:

The first question that we addressed was essentially if there has ever been a true democracy in history, which led naturally into the question of what a democracy is. I kept using the example of athens, in which the citizenship participated directly in the political process, and this participation served a twofold effect of education. In this way, athens served as a useful example to critique other candidates for the title of democracy, including the United States and India, even as the democracy itself did exclude a majority of its populace from its citizenship, a fact which cannot be ignored. It is difficult to say if we ever arrived at a specific analytic definition of what a democracy was outside of a government that recognized and reinforced the will of the majority.

Another question that was circulating around the table, concerned the relative worth of Democracy. In other words, is Democracy a good thing? When is it a bad thing? There was some discussion of the use of propaganda by those in influential positions to trick the masses into thinking that they operate in its best interest, when really the masses are simply reifying already established power structures through what essentially amounts to a facade of participation. Of course this would not be democracy per se, but perhaps this set up does characterize certain nations that might present themselves as democratic. Along the same lines of this critique is that the masses are stupid and they do not know what is good for them, and therefore they must be told what it is by those who have the right knowledge. It seems however that in this case knowledge is tantamount to authority, a la Michel Foucault. There was also a question of whether democracy's success depends on a certain economic and social context, such as economic growth and homogeneity in the case of Norweigian countries.

There was more, but I felt we drifted off topic into economic quesions.

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