Demotic Moments

Democracy is, by nature, a work in progress, and Western history has had very few occurrences when the “demos” became a politically self-conscious actor. What do these moments teach us?

This post belongs to a reading series of Democracy Incorporated by Sheldon S. Wolin. For quick access to all chapters, please click here.

Disclaimer: This chapter summary is personal work and an invitation to read the book itself for a detailed view of all the author’s ideas.

According to Sheldon Wolin, democracy could be represented as a practical division of labor regarding how to get from here to there. The population decides where “there” is while the elites supply the expert “know-how” to reach it. He adds that, unfortunately, nothing in this division of labor guarantees that a reality check will ever be implemented, even though it is obviously needed for the people on the elite’s ambitions and the elite on the irrationality of the people. As the late John Robert Lewis used to say, “Democracy is not a state, it is an act,” meaning that there is nothing mechanical or achieved once and for all about it. In a democracy, everyone has a formal political responsibility; being actively committed to the common good is the price each citizen must pay for a government of, by, and for the people.

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