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Was Democracy Just a Moment
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Was Democracy Just a Moment


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Slides based on the article Was Democracy Just a Moment (Robert D. Kaplan) for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

Slides based on the article Was Democracy Just a Moment (Robert D. Kaplan) for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

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  • Learning Objectives: 1.) To appreciate the complexity of democracy and the demands it imposes on societies. 2.) To assess the argument that democracy requires certain pre-requisites before it can be enjoyed in its fullest (and what these pre-requisites supposedly are).
  • Transcript

    • 2. Context
      • People tend to romanticize the triumph of ideals
        • Christianity, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution, Marxism, etc.
      • Yet such perspectives only amount to determinism
        • i.e. History as unidirectional and linear
        • Individuals as incapable of shaping their own destinies
    • 3. On Democracy
      • It may be wrong to insist that democracy has proven itself as “the end of history”
        • That other forms of government have failed say nothing of democracy’s own viability
        • To insist that democracy has proven itself as the final form of government is itself deterministic
    • 4. Performance Review
      • Because democracies emphasize political freedoms, they highlight societal characteristics
        • Particularly, societies’ weaknesses
      • If we examine the performance of democracies, we find the record spotty at best
    • 5. Performance Review
      • What these instances tell us is that not all countries may be ready for democracy
      • In short, democracy has certain pre-requisites
      • In the absence of these prerequisites, democracy will not thrive/function
    • 6. Prerequisites
      • Functioning bureaucratic/civic institutions
        • Democracy neither forms states nor strengthens them
        • Thus in order for them to ''work" they must be strong to begin with
        • In the absence of such institutions, such democracies will remain weak states
    • 7. Prerequisites
      • Ethnic homogeneity
        • This is a prerequisite for a working party system
        • Without ethnic homogeneity, instituting democracy may exacerbate exiting ethnic cleavages
        • Democracy, in a non-homogenous society, will be rife with factionalism
    • 8. Prerequisites
      • A large middle class
        • Democracies can only work after a certain level of economic development
        • Middle classes bring social stability (Aristotle)
        • Middle classes are usually created first by authoritarian governments
        • Democracy presents itself as the step following authoritarianism
    • 9. Prerequisites
      • High literacy rate
      • Sometimes, bloody revolution
    • 10. The Lesson
      • “The lesson to learn is not that dictatorship is good and democracy bad, but that democracy emerges successfully only as a capstone to other social and economic achievements.”
    • 11. The Lesson
      • Often, our advocacy of democracy is based on moral arguments
      • Moral arguments alone are insufficient: by and large democracy is a matter of practical consequence
      • How can we argue in favor of democracy if it doesn’t work everywhere?
    • 12. Therefore…
      • There is great danger transplanting democracies from one country to the next
      • Democracies should arise after or as a result of certain socio-economic transformations
      • In the absence of these pre-requisites, democracy is problematic