January 14, 2009

TWO KINDS OF DEMOCRACY- Forever Intolerable To Each Other.

Rationality and Democracy travel as fellows and arrive at a single and harmonious common truth- ideal and uncontroversial. The democracy of the Age of Reason. All truths are discoverable, and all reasonable, rational men will agree on their common and mutual self-interests as they are discovered.


“Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power. Much of its discourse is still fixated on an eighteenth-century Enlightenment fantasy of the “Republic of Letters,” which paints politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. The best program, when well argued by the wise and well-intentioned, is assumed to prevail in the end. Political action is disconnected, in this worldview, from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived experience.”


Bhaskar SunkaraHas Liberalism Failed? Letter To The Nation From A Young Radical. The Nation Magazine, June 10 – 17, 2013


Or… Democracy is continuously, and necessarily, a noisy, fumbling, seeking, turgid and agonistic process of contention. It is endlessly dialectical and conversational. It is a continuous and perpetual commitment to a demanding process and indeterminate practice.

“…. [B]y their positive doctrine the romantics introduced a new set of values, not reconcilable with the old, and … most Europeans are today the heirs of both opposing traditions. We accept both outlooks, and shift from one foot to the other in a fashion that we cannot avoid if we are honest with ourselves, but which is not intellectually coherent.”


Isaiah Berlin: The Sense Of Reality. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.

But ah, we have such trouble being honest with ourselves, and with one another.

Somehow, something more than honesty is needed to tolerate and keep in mind multiple perspectives, different ways of understanding and diverse subjectivities. An imaginative courage, or something like it, is needed. But we argue that difficult as it may be, this something is necessary if we are to cling to any kind of real subjective coherence in a world of such contradiction and complexity. We hope to examine more closely this unusual and subtle quality in a future Essay. Meanwhile, thoughts and references about such “ways of knowing” appear in our Essay entitled Hypocrisy is Bad and dated 05 November, 2008.

Very large numbers of us do not have this multi-perspectival “way of knowing.” We carry an archaic belief (–really an episteme so deeply buried as to masquerade as an opaque ontological obstacle-) that no two things can be true and contradict one another. This interesting line of inquiry too is examined in the above-mentioned Essay. We encourage you, our Reader, to read it.

What are we to make of this? We are concerned that for many of us, these two “outlooks” are really so contradictory that neither can (honestly) admit of the other, at all. It seems that each perspective is so challenged and contradicted by the other that their tension within the conception of “democracy” maybe be inherently irresoluble and permanent.

The latter “kind” of democracy –a democracy of contending voices, conflicting interests and mutable, multiple evolving “truths-“ is a logical impossibility for those who adhere passionately to the former kind: the presumably “rational,” progressive and ideal one.

Probably, the “kind” of democracy that is committed to multiple perspectives and many voices is better predisposed to tolerate and embrace the contrary perspective of the single, perfectible human polity.

Nonetheless, a future of perfected political institutions, a static and ideal future state of man, is a theoretical impossibility for True Believers in the latter, rowdy “kind” of democracy. The kinds of thinking and practices that presuppose a trajectory of inevitable “progress” and innate perfectibility may be intolerable for those who are dedicated to the messy practices of the democracy of a passionate, loud and imperfect, and permanent, public dialogue.

Passionate believers devoted each to democracy, locked in perpetual, irresoluble conflict- Insurmountable impasses. (Both ontological and epistemological.)

Each a kind of democracy, with its absolute and implacable champions, that cannot admit, tolerate and endure the other.


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editor @ 7:37 pm

1 Comment »

  1. jaja!

    Comment by grüntee — January 5, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

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