Democracy: Is it a collective fantasy?

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Democracy, one of the most ground-breaking innovations in the history of mankind has picked up like rage in the last century, across the globe. The roots of democracy run down in history to times as early as the fifth century Athens. Through this time democracy had a huge fan following, including Cleisthenes, who is touted to be “the father of democracy” in ancient Greece to philosopher Karl Popper who defined it by contrasting it with dictatorship and tyranny.

One of the major reasons for such huge admiration and the resulting popularity for this form of government in the majority of nations is that democracy shifts the power to choose to the hands of people. This form of a government, therefore, is successful in creating an impression of responsibility and power to ordinary people. Also as Adam Przeworski, in his influential work, democracy and market (1991) points out, democracy and its glossy success primarily rest upon its ability to create a combination of uncertainty of outcomes and diffusion of responsibility. Hence, if someone is a social loafer in a democracy, nobody gains. This apparently makes us work, in theory, but not in practice. 
This nearly utopian assumption regarding democracy gives it an impression of an ideal illusion. The flaws of such a system manifest in all the hurdles we face in a democracy such as corruption, lagging development, never-ending conflicts, poor management of resources and socio-political and economic disturbances among the population, to name a few. Also, though democracy dreams of an egalitarian distribution of power and decentralizing administrative processes, often subtle undercurrents still monopolize power in most of the democracies.

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Democracy is the market through which powerful tycoons sell the idea of freedom to us, only to entrap and bring us under their control. The fundamental root of this is the development of knowledge societies and knowledgeable societies which decides who needs to know what at the dawn of globalisation. This is easily visible in the siege of the press, not just in India, but also across the globe. Our media, controlled by “ideas with people" and not people with ideas, manufacture coloured truths to lure us into their versions of a story. All this points to the extent to which our lives are not really ours. From the television advertisement and Facebook feed to merchandise and stock exchange, a big brother might be watching you.
However, it is undoubtedly biased to proclaim that democracy is at fault for this. But rather an incomplete understanding of human nature and thereby an imposition of incompatible governance on human beings are more at fault. According to the Greek philosopher and one of the greatest critics of democracy, Socrates just like a ship needs a captain who knows how to sail a ship, so is the fate of the state that requires a leader who knows how to guide. Democracy, by giving the power to choose to almost everyone may not end up in taking the right decisions. The majority is at times the manipulated masses and may not always be right. Thus, democracy is a complicated idea and we have to equip ourselves to make good use of this system.

Every election season, we hear a lot about democracy and the tales of its glory. It surely feels good to know that we have a choice and decisional power in a larger context like nation-building. Being for the people, by the people, and of the people, democracy seems to be extremely representative of the citizens and seems very less like the authoritative aristocracy of a monarchy. However, the darker sides of democracy, just like the black swan principle are not unlikely and as educated and empowered citizens, and more importantly as the youth of this country, we must think, articulate and take action.

- Ananda Krishnan

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Democracy: Is it a collective fantasy? Democracy: Is it a collective fantasy? Reviewed by EMN on April 28, 2019 Rating: 5

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