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Political Philosophy Essay

Barber (1999) refers to strong democracy as one of the democratic responses to contemporary political condition. The author clearly distinguishes the strong democratic type from unitary democracy, pluralist democracy, authoritative, and juridical democracy. All these types of democracy are idealistic, and are never applied to real political conditions in their pure forms, but they represent the five different visions of the democratic order which deserve attention and should be objectively reviewed. Barber (1999) defines authoritative democracy in centralized executive terms.

Authoritative democracy exercises the principles of differential citizenry; although authoritative democracy is fully accountable to the democratic community which elects it, this type of democratic order relies on the excellence of elites (Barber, 1999). The two major deficiencies are characteristic of authoritative democracy: first, it tends towards hegemony; second, it tends to camouflage its political representation under the cover of political wisdom. As a result, individuals risk confusing the political virtue with the political excellence (Barber, 1999). Juridical democracy is based on the principles of protecting human rights.

Arbitration and adjudication are the necessary preconditions of juridical democracy (Barber, 1999). In juridical democracy, the principle of differential citizenry is expressed through excessive reliance on courts, which resolve and mediate political issues and substantially limit the power of the democratic government. Barber (1999) writes that “juridical democracy is deficient because it subverts the legislative process”. The author is confident that juridical democracy initially distorts the notions of the natural right and the higher law, using them as the disguise for political reintroduction and representation (Barber, 1999).

Pluralist democracy is the most ideal democratic form of all Barber describes in his work. Pluralist democracy is based on the principle of the social contract which free political markets use in the process of political exchange (Barber, 1999). In distinction from the two previous forms of democracy, the pluralist form relies on active (not differential) citizenry. All conflicts and issues are arbitrated with the help of bargaining in which free equal individuals are involved.

The pluralist democracy is deficient because the power of the social contract and bargaining is very weak. In Barber’s (1999) view, pluralist democracy is too innocent, and cannot lead to formation of any public thinking. Unitary democracy could initially become the political representation of certain norm as the central element of democratic order. Although unitary democracy promotes the unanimous character of political decisions, it tends to undermine the principles of individual autonomy. The role of citizenry in unitary democracy is vague (Barber, 1999).

The problem is in that the unity of political deliberation requires that individuals merge with the rest of the political community. As a result, they risk losing their political individuality, and promote collective political thinking. Unitary democracy cannot foster self-realization; in massive forms, unitary democracy borders on coercion and malevolence (Barber, 1999). In many aspects, unitary democracy is synonymous to “conformist” type of political order, which mixes tyranny with terror and views community consensus through the prism of collectivity and collective political interests.

Barber (1999) is confident that strong democracy is the political order of the future. The author views this type of democratic order as a community which will never be collectivistic, and which is the most compatible with the contemporary society. The core of strong democracy is the self-government, in which citizens govern themselves (Barber, 1999). The conflict resolution is based on self-legislation, and the creation of the political community.

The mentioned political community is the key element of strong democracy, and it is the necessary condition for transforming the political conflicts into the useful epistemological tools of public thinking (Barber, 1999). Simultaneously, Barber fails to define the criteria for the creation and existence of the already mentioned political community. If strong democratic community exists to transform political conflicts or implement political decisions (Barber, 1999), it is unclear whether this community will keep its previous form as soon as it achieves its political goals.

One can’t but agree with Barber (1999) in that in strong democracy community is invariably linked to the notion of citizenship, but there are striking disparities between the notions of community and participation. Although strong democracy claims striking the misbalance between participation and community, it does not offer any reliable criteria for achieving the democratic world of the common ends, in which conflict serves the dialectical means of turning the masses into the democratic citizenship.

Conclusion Strong democracy is viewed by Barber (1999) as the best and the most realistic type of democratic order. Barber (1999) emphasizes the deficiencies which authoritative, juridical, unitary, and pluralist democracies display. Simultaneously, Barber (1999) fails to provide the criteria for creating and supporting the strong democratic community and participation. The relation between community and participation remains misbalanced, and strong democracy will hardly strike it.


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