Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Growing Democracy

A couple of insightful quotations:

Helmut at phronesisaical quotes Habermas,

The universal validity claim which binds the West to its 'basic political values,' that is, to the procedure of democratic self-determination and the vocabulary of human rights, must not be confused with the imperialist claim that the political form of life and the culture of a particular democracy - even the oldest one - is exemplary for all societies...It was precisely American pragmatism that made insight into what is in each case equally good for all parties contingent on reciprocal perspective taking. The 'reason' of modern rational natural law is not instantiated by universal 'values' that one can own like goods, and distribute and export throughout the world. 'Values' - including those that can count on winning global recognition - do not float in mid-air, but acquire binding force only within the normative orders and practices of particular cultural forms of life.

and singpr at My Life and Times, V.S. Naipaul,
As democracy offers a promise of freedom and equality, in a society shackled in age-old unfair, discriminatory societal hierarchies, it consequently has the effect of creating a seemingly hostile, retributive environment. Grievances are voiced, discriminations challenged, and the status quo questioned by a 'million little mutinies.'

Both of these quotations point to the failure of the basis premise of neo-conservatism, Fukyama's idea that everyone else in the world has the all-consuming desire to be America to such a degree that if we simply removed the impediments from any country on Earth a liberal democracy with free market economy would spontaneously appear. It's as if Algeria were never there. If there is not the widespread commitment to democratic notions, of course, it will not take root.

Of course when you take the lid off, old unsettled animosities would run rampant trampling any seeds of democracy that might have been planted by well or not so well intentioned foreigners. Of course a working democracy requires a commitment to the democracy on all parts that is at least as great as commitment to one's own cause within the democracy. Why would you be willing to share power with those you disagree with when there is the chance that you could have all the power?

What, then, are the most important elements needed in setting the ideological table? What pieces of social and intellectual infrastructure are the most crucial in giving rise to a pluralistic democratic urge within a country? What needs to be in place to create a space where deep, divisive differences get worked out in non-violent political ways, through the heated exchange of arguments not the heated exchange of small arms fire? Free press? Vibrant universities and a well educated population? A fair distribution of wealth? Satisfaction of the basic needs of food, shelter, and security for all? Women's rights? Separation of church and state?