Once we approach the idea of citizenship from a moral point of viewand we recognize the importance of a division of labor, the questionarises, what is the appropriate role for a citizen in a democracy? Ifwe think that citizens are too often uninformed we should ask twoquestions. What ought citizens have knowledge about in order tofulfill their role? What standards ought citizens’ beliefs liveup to in order to be adequately supported? Some, such as Dahl in theabove quote, have proposed that citizens know about their particularsectors of society and not others. We have seen that this view has anumber of difficulties. Christiano proposes, along with others, thatcitizens must think about what ends the society ought to aim at andleave the question of how to achieve those aims to experts(Christiano 1996, chap. 5). This kind of view needs to answer to theproblem of how to ensure that politicians, administrators and expertsactually do attempt to realize the aims set by citizens. And it mustshow how institutions can be designed so as to establish the divisionof labor while preserving equality among citizens. But if citizensgenuinely do choose the aims and others faithfully pursue the means toachieving those aims, then citizens are in the driver's seat insociety.
A number of debates have centered on the question of what kinds oflegislative institution are best for a democratic society. What choicewe make here will depend heavily on our underlying ethicaljustification of democracy, our conception of citizenship as well as onour empirical understanding of political institutions and how theyfunction. The most basic types of formal political representationavailable are single member district representation, proportionalrepresentation and group representation. In addition, many societieshave opted for multicameral legislative institutions. In some cases,combinations of the above forms have been tried.
Another kind of internal limit is a limit that arises from theprinciples that underpin democracy. And the presence of this limitwould seem to be necessary to making sense of the first limit becausein order for the first limit to be morally important we need to knowwhy a democracy ought to protect the democratic process.
On the other hand some limits to democratic authority are undercuttinglimits. These limits function not by weighing against theconsiderations in favor of authority, they undercut the considerationsin favor of authority altogether; they simply short circuit theauthority. When an undercutting limit is in play, it is not as if theprinciples which ground the limit outweigh the reasons for obeying thedemocratic assembly, it is rather that the reasons for obeying thedemocratic assembly are undermined altogether; they cease to exist orat least they are severely weakened.
If democracy does have authority, what are the limits to thatauthority? A limit to democratic authority is a principle violation ofwhich defeats democratic authority. When the principle is violated bythe democratic assembly, the assembly loses its authority in thatinstance or the moral weight of the authority is overridden. A numberof different views have been offered on this issue. First, it isworthwhile to distinguish between different kinds of moral limit toauthority. We might distinguish between internal and external limitsto democratic authority. An internal limit to democratic authority isa limit that arises from the requirements of democratic process or alimit that arises from the principles that underpin democracy. Anexternal limit on the authority of democracy is a limit that arisesfrom principles that are independent of the values or requirements ofdemocracy. Furthermore, some limits to democratic authority arerebutting limits, which are principles that weigh in the balanceagainst the principles that support democratic decision making. Someconsiderations may simply outweigh in importance the considerationsthat support democratic authority. So in a particular case, anindividual may see that there are reasons to obey the assembly andsome reasons against obeying the assembly and in the case at hand thereasons against obedience outweigh the reasons in favor ofobedience.
(and other people's, if you can)
Use last names
Make specific claims
Pair each claim with ONE specific, concrete example
Avoid vague statements (no if's)
Clearify statements to show your understanding
Avoid first person
Avoid clichés and overused transitions
Avoid personal experiences
Use appeals: logos and ethos
Avoid repeating yourself
Image by Tom Mooring
Consider Both Sides
Dissent and Disagreement
Brooks-Sumner incident of 1854: a breakdown of discourse that led to the Civil War
American Senate and Congress
Republican and Democratic Party
freedom of speech (1st Amendment)
President Lincoln's cabinet members
Labor Unions: arbitrition vs.
It seems as though America is doing better at democracy in some areas than in others. For example, the government is broken up into three branches of government to prevent tyranny and from one branch becoming to powerful (Wood, Gordon A. 38). Representatives are chosen to administer the duty within each branch through the selection process of elections. Some argue that voting is not a great representative of the majority consensus because of low voting turnout. The fact remains that the purpose of elections is to give each citizen the privilege and opportunity to be part of a political process and decision. Using the comparative approach method for measuring American democracy I would agree that “we” are a very democratic country in comparison to countries that fail to let their citizens have a voice in politics.
Political theorists Jeremy Elkins and Andrew Norris observe that American political culture is deeply ambivalent about truth. On the one hand, voices on both the left and right make confident appeals to the truth of claims about the status of the market in public life and the role of scientific evidence and argument in public life, human rights, and even religion. On the other hand, there is considerable anxiety that such appeals threaten individualism and political plurality. This anxiety, Elkins and Norris contend, has perhaps been greatest in the humanities and in political theory, where many have responded by either rejecting or neglecting the whole topic of truth.
The essays in this volume question whether democratic politics requires discussion of truth and, if so, how truth should matter to democratic politics. While individual essays approach the subject from different angles, the volume as a whole suggests that the character of our politics depends in part on what kinds of truthful inquiries it promotes and how it deals with various kinds of disputes about truth. The contributors to the volume, including prominent political and legal theorists, philosophers, and intellectual historians, argue that these are important political and not merely theoretical questions.
However, “no government of human device and human administration can be perfect…that which is the least imperfect is therefore the best government.” (qtd. in Goldwin and Schambra 1). The amount of democracy in America can be characterized as high in some cases or low in other circumstances. Such examples of low circumstances include equal pay and the distribution of wealth. James Madison said, “no government is perfect,” which is a key factor in the process to improve and create a democracy better for the majority in equality, opportunity, and freedom (1). Comparing present America with the past I would conclude that democracy has improved for the majority.
Editor’s note: This is the introduction to an in depth essay on a major problem of our times, the international development of a form of authoritarianism that uses the rhetoric of democracy. . This then will be followed with a series of commentaries, opening a new special feature of Public Seminar on democracy and its enemies. -JG
Born outside Düsseldorf in 1929, Habermas came of age inpostwar Germany. The Nuremberg Trials were a key formative moment thatbrought home to him the depth of Germany's moral and politicalfailure under National Socialism. This experience was later reinforcedwhen, as a graduate student interested in Heidegger'sexistentialism, he read the latter's reissued Introduction toMetaphysics, in which Heidegger had retained (or more accurately,reintroduced) an allusion to the “inner truth andgreatness” of National Socialism (Heidegger 1959, 199). WhenHabermas (1953) publicly called for an explanation from Heidegger, thelatter's silence confirmed Habermas's conviction that theGerman philosophical tradition had failed in its moment of reckoning,providing intellectuals with the resources neither to understand nor tocriticize National Socialism. This negative experience of the relationbetween philosophy and politics subsequently motivated his search forconceptual resources from Anglo-American thought, particularly itspragmatic and democratic traditions. In moving outside the Germantradition, Habermas joined a number of young postwar intellectuals suchas Karl-Otto Apel (for Habermas's autobiographical sketch, see2005b, chap. 1; also Wiggershaus 2004).