Democratic Political Theory

Democratic Political Theory
Eco Ag – Eco Design
October 30, 2003
Chad Kruger
Kemmis: Community and the
Politics of Place
“The great, hidden debate behind the
Constitution was not about how to
balance the interests of slave and
free states, or of large and small
states, but about the role of virtue,
and of vice, as elements of
citizenship.” – p. 13
Kemmis: Community and the
Politics of Place
• “Republicans believed that public life was
essentially a matter of the common
choosing and willing of a common world . .
.” – p. 15
• The federalists believed “individuals would
pursue their private ends, and the
structure of government would balance
those pursuits so cleverly that the highest
good would emerge.” – p. 15
Plato: How do we create a just state?
• “To know the good is to do the
– Virtue can be learned
– Bad action comes from ignorance
– Takes too long for people to learn
• Therefore: Guardianship
The Phaedo and The
– Bronze Souls – Artisans, farmers
– Silver Souls – Soldiers
– Gold Souls – Philosopher-Kings
Aristotle: “A friend is a mirror unto thyself.”
The Ethics and The
• “. . . everyone always acts in
order to obtain that which they
think good. . . all communities
aim at some good, the state or
political community, . . . aims at .
. .the highest good . . . Hence, it
is evident that the state is a
creation of nature, and that man
is by nature a political animal.”
• The polis is the functional scale
St. Thomas Aquinas: Catholic Aristotle
Summa Theologica
• Key contribution to
democratic political theory
is that law is the
mechanism that the state
uses to encourage virtuous
Machiavelli: “Is it better to be
feared or to be loved?”
• “The people are like cattle. . .”
The Prince – written to
gain the favor of the
ruling Medici family.
• The craft of governing is
more important than the
nature of the governance.
Public success and private
morality are entirely separate.
The question is not what
makes a good human being,
but what makes a good
Thomas Hobbes: The Leviathon
• “And the life of man, solitary,
poore, nasty, brutish, and
short.” [sic]
• Hobbes lived through a variety
of violent wars, and studied
the Peloponnesian War at
The Leviathon
• Without a strong, effective
state (central government), the
state of nature of human
beings would take over society
John Jacques Rousseau: Noble Savage
The Social Contract
• “Man was born free, but everywhere
he is in chains. . . How may the
restraints on man become
legitimate? . . . At a point in the state
of nature when the obstacles to
human preservation have become
greater than each individual with his
own strength can cope with . . . an
adequate combination of forces
must be the result of men coming
Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and
the Pursuit of Happiness
Declaration of
and the Bill of
 "The main body of our citizens... remain
true to their republican principles; the
whole landed interest is republican. . .
Against us are... all timid men who prefer
the calm of despotism to the boisterous
sea of liberty... We are likely to preserve
the liberty we have obtained only by
unremitting labors and perils. But we shall
preserve it, and our mass of weight and
wealth on the good side is so great as to
leave no danger that force will ever be
attempted against us." --Thomas Jefferson
to Philip Mazzei, 1796.
The Federalists: Alexander Hamilton, John
Jay & James Madison
• The entire purpose of The Federalist
Papers was to gain popular support for the
then-proposed Constitution
• Hamilton would serve in the President’s
• Jay became the first Chief Justice
• Madison became President – Important to
note that Madison rode the fence on the
issue of democratic theory – He agreed in
principle with Jefferson that the people
The Federalist
should rule, but feared that the people
lacked the discipline to gain the necessary
competencies to rule justly.
Alexis de Tocqueville: Why
American democracy works!
• "The electors see their representative not only as
a legislator for the state but also as the natural
protector of local interests in the legislature. . .”
• "Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all
types of disposition are forever forming
associations...In democratic countries knowledge
of how to combine is the mother of all other forms
of knowledge. . ."
French Aristocrat
who toured the US
in the 1830’s and
wrote Democracy
in America
• "In towns it is impossible to prevent men from
assembling, getting excited together and forming
sudden passionate resolves. . . In them the
people wield immense influence over their
magistrates and often carry their desires into
execution without intermediaries."
Concluding Questions
So – are people inherently good or bad?
And, more importantly, can they be
What factors need to be considered in
terms of developing the processes that
make civic democracy possible?
– Ex. Role of scale, civic associations, etc.
There once was a dream
that was Rome.

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