Amongst the principal facets of the liberal world order is the value of democratic governance. The notion finds its way into discourse often, but there exists a lack of unanimity in its definition. In Book VI of his Republic, Plato lay out an allegory of establishing democracy, describing a keeper “in charge of a large and powerful animal, (who) made a study of its moods and wants.” The keeper is emblematic of a political administration; its electorate an untamable beast. Democracy is what occurs in between: the continuous process of trying to placate and appease a populace whose human caprices stand in the way of their contentment. How does one gauge whether the keeper is successful? How can we measure the health of a democracy? We start by defining barometers and holding them up against a regime built on the promise of liberal democracy: the Weimar Republic. One measure to consider is the strength of the Weimar constitution, but charter will not always reflect reality. Two integral benchmarks for democratic soundness are participation, and pluralism. It’s easy to look at the Republic’s political and economic inheritance and to say that it stood no chance of survival - but sidestepping the arrogance of hindsight to evaluate more closely might yield a better understanding of what caused the Weimar democracy to eat itself.
The predominant strands of thought in western societies associate the origins of democratic thinking and democracy per se with a number of classical Greek philosophers and their antiqual city-states. Conventionally referred to as ‘Athenian Democracy’, it preceded the Roman Republic which followed suit until 27 B.C and other novel democratic institutions such as the parliamentary Corts Catalanes ─ its origins tracing back to the Assemblees de Pau i Treva around 1021 A.D ─ and the Cortes de Léon established in 1188 A.D. Indeed, despite scholarly divisions over the specific date at which these city-states shifted from societal ‘protodemocracy’ to institutional ‘democracy’, most historians situate it around the Solonian reforms of the early 6th Century B.C (Christ, 2008: 513). As for the tremendous classical heritage these Hellenic polities brought forward to the historical formation and evolution of democracies, it suffices to say the entire discussion of this article is framed around an etymology deriving from the ancient Greek word demos[people]-kratie[power].
The term 'democracy’ has accrued tremendous normative baggage over the centuries, once negative but now more positive. In this gradual development of the concept it has become further and further ingrained in common consciousness as an unassailable 'third-rail’- something no one is willing to touch, let alone dispute its efficacy in society at large. The liberal model of representative democracy that has become the basis of our relationship to political action and expression has fundamentally failed in its mission to enable a real discourse between citizen and state. It has instead separated the two parties, allowing them to operate almost independently. The state is not tied to the will of those who sustain it, but has been alienated so far from this role, becoming more of a passive administrator that only allows input from those it commands and indentures on a timescale of years rather than months or weeks. In this tract we will openly discuss the shortfalls of this sacred calf and reach an understanding of democracy as something hostile to the individual and to individual political action.
The term ‘Tradition’ is almost always used pejoratively in modern Western political discourse. Tradition is seen as a weight in the pursuit of a freer world, as opposed to rational individual thought, or even as an obstacle of progress. The defence of tradition’s futility – to put it mildly - is nowadays certainly an easier task than an appraisal of its utility. However, that is only the case before one has tackled the ‘traditional’ misconceptions of the term and discovered its profound necessity for a nation.