The danger of representative democracy is that it imagines government as something we outsource to a professional class so that we can get on with what is most important in our lives. There is a decided similarity between representative democracy and technocracy, in that both presume that political administration is a necessary but uninspiring activity to be avoided and relegated to a class of bureaucrats and technocrats. The threat of representative democracy is that it is founded upon and regenerates an anti-political and apolitical culture, one that imagines politics as menial work to be done by others.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
#146 / Reading About Democracy
San Benito Rising has qualified an anti-fracking initiative for the November 2014 ballot in San Benito County, and one of the organizers of San Benito Rising recently sent out a draft paper on democracy, authored by Art Pearl, an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Pearl's paper is titled "Democracy: What It Is, How to Get It, and Why We Will Not Survive Without it." As far as I can tell, the paper isn't available on the internet, though there is a series of YouTube videos that presents many of the same ideas. Pearl will be coming to San Benito County on June 6th, to discuss with local activists how to breathe new life into our democracy, and how that objective relates to San Benito Rising's campaign to ban fracking. If you would be interested in attending, and want time and place information, try contacting San Benito Rising. You could also "stay tuned" for a possible public announcement about Pearl's talk.
Coincidentally, I had just been doing some other reading about democracy when I saw Pearl's article. The Nation has recently published an article entitled "What Was Democracy?" Amor Mundi, a blog published by The Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College asks "Is Democracy Over?" All of these three articles raise the question, in various ways, whether "democracy" has any continuing vitality in our current world.
The Hannah Arendt blog, which comments on the article from The Nation, says this:
I was pleased to see this comment, because it continues to be my belief that "democracy" really means "self-government," and that we can't "outsource" self-government. If we want self-government (that is to say, "democracy") we will need to be involved in government ourselves.