Having taken a course this semester titled “Democratic Theory” I spent at least a couple hours every week discussing with others the merits and downsides to different democratic theories. We covered everything from Aristotle and Plato through Putnam and his “Bowling Alone” theory.
During this class I frequently found myself arguing against everyone else’s belief in the supremacy of democracy. The belief that democracy is the political cure-all for society is still pretty dominant in society today and it was frustrating to try and form an argument as to why I didn’t think so.
The video below helped me to better put in perspective some of my reasons for why a society doesn’t need democracy in order to be stable, happy, and successful.
Ultimately, my objections to the belief in democracy as the solution to all political problems boils down to this:
I find it hard to argue (and have found no one who can argue) that the values inherent in democracy are not rooted in Western culture. Values like freedom, equality, and individual autonomy are largely rooted in the way that we perceive them to be important. Americans have a difficult time conceiving of a functioning society independent of these values and thus think that other countries and other citizens need to have them as well.
I think that this is not the case. When I think about my own life the things that matter most are my personal happiness, well being, and quality of life experience. While those things are certainly helped by the way in which democracy is structured in the United States they are not contingent upon it.
I think there is a better solution out there and I think that the more we pacify ourselves with the belief that we cannot do better the worse our politics and society will get. What would be truly great is to not think of reforming politics but of innovating politics.