Democracy is never simply “People (demo-) Power (-cracy)”. The expectation of a consensus among people has never panned out in a Euro-Western context. Caste and Individualism have each played their part in debilitating democracy. Reliance on a simple majority has grown from Enlightenment/Industrial models of one short-cut or another to on-going, considered conversation. People’s desire for Power has subverted every attempt to a People’s Power within a commons. Everyday differences continually foil ideological unity.
Among the short-term attempts to streamline a process that takes time and empathy are—majorities, economics, violence, and charisma.
A concept of a majority standing-for-a-whole delays progress toward a sense of “general welfare”. There comes an automatic reaction by those outvoted—their recourse becomes sabotage and revolution.
Substituting the invisible-hand of a market for a divine right of a kingly group to exploit its poor is, on its face, antithetical to caring-for-all. Those who come to have an economic advantage—resist giving it up. Finally, it will require some form of a potlatch or year-of-jublilee voluntary give-away of privilege to reset relationships that have become unbalanced. Economies don’t see it that way and always claim a priority of what is to be sustained. In the face of inequities an economy will trump the rights of survival and thrival of humans and earth.
Violence is an automatic disqualification for “People Power” as it overwhelms thought and virtue for immediate ascendancy over any perceived to be “not me”. It is particularly grievous when violence is used against poor who are more likely to carry solutions to the endemic problem of inequity that subverts People Power.
As social creatures, we influence one another. Some know how to leverage others against themselves. Charisma can be substituted with advertising, propaganda, memes, and leadership style. The presence of borderline personalities is a continual threat to consensual governance. One person, standing-for-all, is an extreme version of majority rules.
What is missing in all of this is an appreciation of the tools needed to project and judge consequences into the 7th iteration of living with one another under the limitations listed above. We keep thinking in terms of answers—once for all time—rather than enjoying a journey of provisional responses. It may be democracy is a model unfit for human consumption when applied beyond the number of people who can hold a vision together (historically 300 or less).
This is not to say that democracy is inherently useless. Any system from dictator to democracy can do well by its citizens. However, there are many forces arraigned against both that lead them to eventually fail. At question is how the next failure will be dealt with. Are we prepared for further division from one another or engagement with one another?