this aspirational approach to democracy, if actually inconsistent with the nature of man, as both Madison and Finley argue, ultimately becomes anti-democratic.
The Ideology of Democratism
two broad approaches to democracy
The first is as a decision-making process for groups
There is another tradition, however, in which democracy takes on a distinctly ideological, even religious bent.
sees democracy as a means of identifying and channeling a mystical “General Will” that lays behind and above day-to-day democratic politics.
One main current of the American political tradition early on expressed skepticism, if not outright hostility, to the Rousseauean understanding of democracy.
proponent of “democratism,”
Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Jacques Maritain, Jürgen Habermas, John Rawls
two recurring distinctives.
The first distinctive is that democratism serves as something of an ersatz religion for its advocates and for society. It provides, even if only implicitly, rival answers to those that traditional religion—Christianity in particular—provides in addressing humanity’s ultimate concerns.
A second distinctive Finley discusses is the self-defeating irony of the Rousseauean approach to democracy: Despite ostensibly promoting the aspiration to democratic decision-making, democratism necessarily relies on elite interpreters of the “General Will.”
As a practical matter, this reliance effectively turns democratism’s formal commitment to democratic governance into an elite-controlled oligarchy.
Democratism as Ersatz Religion
full-throated versions of the Rousseauian tradition assert democratic doctrines as a rival, or even as a substitute, for traditional religious beliefs
five doctrines advanced by democratists that would rival traditional religious dogmas even as they modify or reverse them
the Rousseauian notion of the “General Will,” in effect, asserts an immanentistic substitute for Divine Providence
For Rousseau and thinkers such as Diderot, the general will retains its original theological connotation of wholeness and perfection, but instead of being attributed to an infinite and omniscient God, it becomes a rational and ahistorical ideal.
A second religious-like doctrine of democratism, according to Finley, is a mirror image of the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.
Other religious-like affirmations of democratists Finley observes include imputing a mystical unity to the body politic—in essence political unity substitutes for the religious unity of the Body of Christ.
Glasp is a social web highlighter that people can highlight and organize quotes and thoughts from the web, and access other like-minded people’s learning.