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Political History.pptx

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Political History.pptx

  1. 1. Political History
  2. 2. •Political History (History of Political Thought= history of thinking about politics
  3. 3. • From Machiavelli to the present, thinkers have distinguished between the adept elite and the incompetent many. We may think that anyone who draws such a distinction and in such terms can be no friend to democracy; that is not true.
  4. 4. • If we are persuaded that in all societies only a small number of people will actually play a role in governing the society, it makes all the difference just how the elite secures and retains the allegiance of the many.
  5. 5. • A totalitarian elite employs the secret police; • a democratic elite employs pollsters and advertising agencies. • Totalitarian elites, military juntas, and the like intend to hold power for life; • Democratic elites allow themselves to be thrown out by the electorate. They may do their very best to cajole, persuade, or even bamboozle the voter, but they do not corrupt the courts, politicize the army, or send the secret police to the polling booth. • Unillusioned commentators on modern democracies describe democracy as rule by competing elites.
  6. 6. • . We are destined to be ruled by elites, but “the circulation of elites” will ensure that incompetent elites are replaced by more-competent elites. The people may only get to choose between one elite and another, but open competition and free elections produce good government. Nonetheless, just who gets to be a member of the political elite, or elites, and how that person gets there remains a contentious issue; even in Western liberal democracies there might be a fierce competition between politicians, but a restrictive system of recruitment to the ranks of the competitors. The American system of primary elections was established to counter just that problem; its success has been only partial.
  7. 7. • So-called elite democracy, or government by competing elites who gain power through the ballot box, is also often described as “rule by professional politicians.” We should not be too quick to disparage professional politicians; there are many worse political systems than contemporary liberal democracies. The fact that professional politicians are in interesting ways not very like the population they represent is not in itself a source of anxiety; physicians are not very like the majority of the patients they care for, either.
  8. 8. • If politicians do a poor job of promoting the best interests of the people they represent, this may be less a matter of simple incompetence than of the conflicting pressures upon them, on the one hand, and the near-impossibility of the tasks they are asked to perform, on the other
  9. 9. • Another way of framing the question was provided by the French political thinker Benjamin Constant early in the nineteenth century. His lecture on the difference between classical and modern conceptions of freedom is a liberal sacred text. Freedom for the citizens of ancient republics like Sparta or Athens was a matter of having a share of the sovereign authority; it was essentially public and political. It came at a high price; not only did such societies depend on the existence of slaves in order to free the citizens to do their citizen duties, but they were societies of mutual surveillance, in which everyone was under the scrutiny of everyone else.
  10. 10. • Skeptics about participation will insist that what matters is accountability rather than mass participation; voting for any particular party or candidate matters less than the ability to vote against them. That is the democratic aspect of “liberal democracy,” and it is impossible to achieve in the absence of the liberal freedoms. In what used to be called “people’s democracies”—otherwise one-party communist states—or “guided democracies”—otherwise dictatorships—there was a very high level of participation, along with frequent opportunities to register enthusiasm for the ruling party and its policies.
  11. 11. • What there was not was the opportunity to canvass alternatives, to press for different policies or a different political leadership without risking imprisonment, torture, or death. Imperfect as liberal democracy is, it yields a measure of accountability to the public that the experience of the past hundred years suggests is indispensable to decent government and the rule of law.
  12. 12. • Modern freedom in contrast was essentially private; it was the ability to pursue our private economic, literary, or religious concerns without having to answer to anyone else. It was freedom from the political sphere rather than freedom in the political sphere. The subject of a modern liberal democracy benefits from its liberal aspect by having a full measure of modern freedom: occupational, educational, religious. Indeed, when most people talk of democracy today, they have these liberties much more clearly in their minds than any particular system of voting rights; that is hardly surprising when barely half of them exercise their right to vote in important national elections, and far fewer in local elections.

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