Democracy has been a topic discussed for hundreds of years and a general idea of the topic would be the “governing of people by the people”. Many people have attempted “to sketch characteristics, or outcomes or preconditions, because democracy itself” (4) has been seen to be a difficult concept to define. In John L Anderson’s ‘What is Democracy?’ (2004) he takes an alternative approach to understanding democracy. Anderson explains that there is no “tidy set of ideas”, but rather “an indirect approach to defining democracy” (4) in order to understand and teach the concept of democracy. He states that there are four notion to achieve this: seeking the public interest helps us develop a morality based upon concern for others; governing others is never simple because of the plurality of differences among people; democracy works well when people govern themselves in reliable, trustworthy ways; education is necessary because citizens do not easily learn how to govern themselves and others in ways that are democratic. This paper will illustrate my understanding of Anderson’s article, as well as show that Anderson’s notions lean towards a definition of democracy centred on utilitarianism ideals.
Anderson arranges his discussion in four sections – one section for each notion. The first section is ‘Public Interest’. He looks at Aristotle’s era for a “basic analysis of democracy” (5). Democracy, in Greek, meant rule by the masses (kratein demos). The word Demos was not a positive outlook at the people, but meant their worst form and depicted them as selfish and only interested in achieving their own goals. Aristotle believed that “governments are problematic when people rule with their self-interest in mind” (5). However, we are ...
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I think all four notions are very important in understanding democracy, because in our day democracy is something we all strive for in our lives and in government. Democracy enables us to have our own opinions and interests, but as we are all different, we must try and see other people’s interest and opinions and take it into considerations on matters that affect everyone including ourselves. If we are able to take these opinions and accept each other as being different then we will have a social understanding of trust in our world and make it more liveable for the majority of people. In the end, Anderson explains that democracy is not only in our political aspects of our lives, but in our private, and public. We must make decisions that not only govern our lives but govern others life for the greater good of our society and humanity as a whole.
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