chapter  2
32 Pages

Realising democratic principles: institutions and attitudes

Chapter one set out basic democratic principles and assumptions. Many people may find it possible to support these broad principles and most of the associated assumptions, albeit from different (e.g. Utilitarian or Marxist) standpoints. These principles, however, have to be realized in particular historical societies and there is likely to be much more controversy over how this should be done. For two reasons. First, suggestions about institutions which might instantiate the principles are unlikely to command wide agreement. Different people are likely to conceive of alternative practices, policies, etc., which seem to them much closer to the spirit of the principles. In the political systems with which we are familiar, for instance, there are wide differences of opinion on the relative fairness of such different voting systems as first-past-the-post or proportional voting. Second, the suggestions which follow are likely to encounter the objection that they are ‘utopian’ or at least untried in practice, since the machinery suggested has not been in operation anywhere in its complete form. (1) Constructive brain-storming, however, as suggested in Chapter one, can be useful in ironing out some of these problems. To some extent this process, as we shall see, has begun already amongst theorists working in the participatory tradition of democracy.