On the concept of Democracy

 There are two characteristics which express the essence of democracy: the sovereignty of the majority and freedom.
(Aristotle: Politics)

The concept of democracy lends itself to multiple interpretations and, even when there seems to be agreement on the meaning to be attributed to this term, it turns out that in practice the degree of discretion with which this concept is applied is particularly high. The meaning given to Democracy has actually taken on different forms according to times, places and the very cultural evolution of society.

The ideal state, according to the Platonic conception, was the aristocratic one ruled by philosophers, where the term philosopher is to be understood as a category of men gifted with wisdom, as well as of great moral depth, who put the common good before their own, of superior intelligence and experts. in the art of politics.

On this basis, therefore, politics had to be necessarily reserved for a select few who had the duty to apply it for the good of all.

In reality, Protagora (about fifty years older than Plato and a contemporary of Socrates) had already thought differently: he affirmed, in fact, that everyone had to participate in political life, accepting (in the broadest sense) the concept of democracy.

According to Aristotle, democracy was a degenerate form of government, as were tyranny and oligarchy, even if he admitted that democracy was the most bearable form of degeneration.

Personally, while appreciating Aristotelian concepts very much, I have extreme difficulty in understanding how democracy can somehow be a degenerate form of government, even if I admit that in the days of Plato and Aristotle this form of government, as we understand it today, maybe not it would have been possible, but now, after more than two thousand years, we could think that society has reached a degree of cultural and mental evolution such that the right to participate in political life can be extended outside the circle of the "elected" .

With this last term I do not refer only to those who are part of an elite of intellectuals understood in the Platonic or Aristotelian sense nor to the class of the "elected" by the people but to that caste of privileged people whose mechanisms, to become part of it, they are often far from the same principles that inspired the ancient philosophers. 

We could think of three levels of democracy: that which takes into account the opinion of a few (locus paucorum), the one that takes into account the opinion of many (locus multorum), the one that takes into account the opinion of all (locus omnium).

The government of the few is actually a false democracy than a real form of government of the people.

 The highest degree of democracy, in fact, occurs when everyone can participate in the life of the government; however, this creates some difficulties, which, in my opinion, can be overcome if the concept of representativeness is applied correctly. In fact, the government of the many, where every member of the government represents a part of society, is close to the type of government that takes into account, if not the totality, at least the majority of citizens.

The problem then shifts to the concept of representativeness of those who govern: if it is real, we are in a democracy; if it is artificial, we are in an oligarchy.

The concepts set out above must be applied to the various levels of possible organization, from the nation to that of the single party structure. In the latter organized form, democracy translates into knowing how to guarantee the principles that tend to lead to maximum participation, both in the government of public affairs and in the government of the party itself. I am referring, in particular, to the fact of allowing a real internal pluralism, guaranteeing the single cultural and political components to contribute to the political action and to the representativeness of the organisms that constitute it at the various levels.

The freedom of members and members must be considered as a value to be protected, allowing (and accepting) that the choices of each one can be made in respect of the common good of the party, but also of one's own individual conscience.

It is perfectly legitimate that, within a dialectic within the party, situations arise whereby majorities and minorities are formed on certain topics; if this were not the case, the suspicion would arise that, in the long run, we are faced with a flattening of ideas.

The problem is sometimes given by the way in which these relationships are formed and how they are substantiated, how the majority treats the minority, and how the minority accepts the fact of being such.

The so-called power relations should be created on ideas and methods, on the contrary, within the parties, although recognized as democratic as such, unfortunately we frequently witness situations in which the logic of aggregation prevails over people, understood as such.

In a democratic spirit we must avoid the principle that, once formed, a majority arrogates to itself the right to crush the minority, guilty of existing and therefore deserving of succumbing since its existence would conflict with the desire for uniformity to be imposed on all costs. Instead, the principle must prevail according to which the level of democracy is higher the higher the capacity to respect minorities.

It must be equally clear, however, that, while respecting consciences and roles, a minority must in any case accept the democratic rules and therefore also the decisions of the majority.

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