What are the conditions required for democracy to flourish? (Aristotle, Marx)

What are the conditions required for democracy to flourish? (Aristotle, Marx)

Democracy is a term that originates from ancient Greece, designating a government where the people share in the direction of the activities of the state. Democracy (dēmokratia in Greek) means the rule of the majority or people. It is a system of government by the whole population typically through the elected representatives (Abensour, 2010, p. 73). In this type of government, the supreme power is vested in the people who exercise power directly or by the elected representatives under s a free electoral system. This is in line with the phrase of Abraham Lincoln that democracy is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” (Chambliss, 2013, p. 139). There are several conditions required for democracy to flourish in any given set up; however, one has to compare and contrast democracy according to Aristotle and Marx.

When defining different types of government that could govern people, Aristotle divides them into two different ways: by economic class and by virtuous or non-virtuous leaders. Therefore, for Aristotle, democracy is regarded as the rule of the poor as well as the rule of majority (Neubauer, 2007, p. 1005). Aristotle said that because it is hard to find a majority who can be virtuous, the rule of the majority has to be non-virtuous in practice and therefore, the rule of the majority, the rule of the poor under democracy does not necessarily help the state in providing the good life for its citizens. Aristotle, therefore, believed that democracy is not a good form of the rule since the rule of the majority does not accomplish the purpose of the state (Frank, 2005, p. 81).

On the other hand, Marxist Theory of Democracy has its own conception of democracy which they termed socialist democracy. Although the accepted form of democracy is the rule of the people, Marx questioned the implication of the term people (Yildiz, 2015, p. 95). They argued that the meaning of democracy must change with the changing nature of the term people (Howard, 2002, p. 3). According to Marx, the democratic system needs to give power to peasants and workers, and the government has to liquidate all oppressors and exploiters. In addition, the existence of classless society is the condition that is a precedent for the advent of the democratic systems. Marx affirmed democracy as the proletarian principle which is a principle of masses. Therefore, the Marxist theory of democracy offers a model of socialist democracy but rejects the design of the liberal democracy (Yildiz, 2015, p. 96).

Although the two points of view have different meanings of the word democracy, it is evident that they have the same conditions required for democracy to flourish. The first condition necessary for democracy to flourish is a sound system of education. It becomes hard to make democracy a success where there is illiteracy since many qualities are required in making democracy a success. Such qualities can only be acquired by citizens through literacy (Abensour, 2010, p. 73). Education enables the citizens in whom the power is vested to have a sense of understanding the political problems of their country as well as the value of their votes. The general population should have such qualities as sympathy, sacrifice, fraternity, discipline, selfless service to the country among others. As far as possible, education and training should be free, and both the rich and poor people should have equal opportunities for their development. It will enable citizens to strive for physical and mental development through the education and have the capacity to earn their livelihood. Otherwise, unemployment should prove hurtful for democracy. To put it plainly, ideal citizens are set up through education without which democratic system cannot become successful (Yildiz, 2015, p. 95).

The second condition is vigilance and enlightened citizenship. Alertness of the citizens is a vital condition because without it the true idea of democracy cannot be realized.  Marx stated that indifference and indolence on the part of the country’s citizens are the two enemies of democracy. In general, the price of liberty is constant or eternal vigilance because, without proper vigilance, democracy is liable to be perverted. People need to have knowledge of their duties and rights to make the democracy a success. The performance of the duties on the part of citizens is essential, and therefore the citizens must become conscious of their rights for democracy to succeed. According to Aristotle, becoming conscious of one’s rights enables the government to rule for the common good, thereby providing good life for all its citizens (Yildiz, 2015, p. 96).

The third condition is political awakening. To make a democracy a success, it is essential to inculcate political awakening among the country’s citizens without which the citizens become unable to understand the political problems and hence inability to elect their representatives properly. Political interestedness on the part of citizens helps in understanding the political and economic problems of the day which enables them to contribute their mite to the formulation and implementation of several national plans defence efforts of the country (Inglehart & Welzel, 2009, p. 78).  Trump victory and Brexit is a sign of the sickness of democracy because the virtuous citizens are mistreated by a small circle of elites. The elites trample on the values, rights, and voice of the legitimate people. Therefore, the Trump’s victory together with its divisive impact demonstrates that the United States does not have the conditions necessary for democracy to flourish. According to Aristotle, the wealth in the United States is too polarised towards the elites and the will of the majority cannot be taken care of. On the other hand, Marx, the lumpenproletariat has spoken but since there is no Left Wing alternative, rigging out Bernie sanders who might have beaten Trump, the USA chosen barbarism over socialism.

On the other hand, freedom of speech, association, and press is required for democracy to thrive. Individual liberty is regarded as the core of democracy by Aristotle. For Aristotle, the government should rule for the common good (Koenig-Archibugi, 2010, p. 520). Freedom of the press is the basic need for democracy because it helps in keeping track the autocratic activities of a government. Such freedoms permit a free scope for apt expansion of human personality without which human personality is dwarfed and consequently affecting democracy adversely. For democracy to flourish, such freedoms must be strictly coupled with accountability and responsibility (Chambliss, 2013, p. 139). As required by Marx, freedom gives power to the workers and peasants thereby forcing the government to liquidate all exploiters and oppressors thus resulting in a classless society (Yildiz, 2015, p. 95). This results in equality which is another condition necessary for democracy to thrive. According to the Marxist theory of democracy, democracy does not recognize class distinctions; however, it is based on economic, social and political equality (Peruzzotti et al. 2012, p. 140). In a democratic system, all citizens are equal before the law, and there should be no discrimination based on colour, sex, caste, religion and economic status. Economic equality ensures that there is social justice which is the basic requirement for democracy (Abensour, 2010, p. 73). Therefore, equality ensures that democracy flourishes because it gives everybody the right to vote and contest election regardless of their caste, property, creed, religion, sex and colour.

On the other hand, democracy flourishes where or when there are strong security and law and order system as well as internal and external forces. The maintenance of law and order by the government in the society makes democracy to succeed as it eliminates anarchy. The people will not have to look towards dictatorship so as to get rid of anarchy when the people’s faith in the government is not shaken because of the existence of law and order. Law and order enable citizens to possess a high degree of civic sense and take a living as well as a healthy interest in their country’s public life (Cunningham, 2002, p. 25). The citizens will possess a high standard of honest as well as moral rectitude, virtues that ensure that power is not misused for ignoble reasons. In addition, democracy flourishes when there is the spirit of tolerance on the part of the general population. Democracy refers to a government by discussion and debate and a keen spirit of tolerance is vital for constructive criticism as well as healthy discussion. The spirit of tolerance ensures that the majority is sympathetic towards the minorities and the minorities submitting to the decisions of the majority thus fostering democracy. Finally, there should be the spirit of cooperation and unity; decentralization of powers and the local self-government; high moral standards; social and economic security; removal of the gross inequalities of wealth as well as a written constitution (Chambliss, 2013, p. 139). According to Marxism, democracy is the road to socialism. He further argued that democracy is used to keep the exploited masses from shaking the system which in turn put the common good above the individual good hence promoting peaceful coexistence (Yildiz, 2015, p. 95).

In summation, it is clear that there are conditions required for democracy to flourish. Such conditions include sound system of education; vigilance and enlightened citizenship; political awakening; freedom of speech, association, and press; equality; strong security and law and order system as well as internal and external forces; spirit of tolerance; a written constitution; spirit of cooperation and unity and social and economic security among others. Democracy enables governments to work for the common good of the citizens thus promoting peaceful coexistence.

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