GCAS–The BLOG

Building Education for the Commons

Democracy: After More than 2500 Years We Still Don’t Get It

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 12.06.15 PMThe problem with democracy today is simple:  We still don’t get it.  In 508/7 BCE the Athenian, Cleisthenes known as “The Father of Democracy” along with Solon and (594 BCE) Ephialtes (462 BCE) introduced a concept that gave the power to all the citizens of Athens to rule through themselves.  Democracy was a universal idea of governing the city by the people and for the people. Of course the “citizen” was male and many people (women and slaves) weren’t considered proper citizens, yet it was an advancement in governance that united feuding clans under a universal idea that materialized itself in practice.  And this is the key, the essential idea of democracy (and its concomitant practice) is grounded in a virtuous principle of direct rule, that it is better to be ruled by all voices (however diverse they may be) than to be ruled by a few aristocratic voices who enacted laws in their own interest, or worse, a dictator.

Cleisthenes, "The Father of Democracy"

Cleisthenes, “The Father of Democracy”

The value of democracy is thus grounded not just in a universal principle and practice, it was a virtue that consisted of courage and solidarity.  Without the courage and solidarity to stand up against the power elite of the oligarchs, aristocrats, and dictators democracy collapses.

Prof. Lori Marso lecturing in the GCAS Series, "Philosophy and the Political: Perspectives on the Future of Democracy"

Prof. Lori Marso lecturing in the GCAS Series, “Philosophy and the Political: Perspectives on the Future of Democracy”

Today in the 21st. Century any ability to establish a direct democracy (vis-a-vis a representative democracy of say the United States, which if you just look at where the money goes is really a form of oligarchical rule) is in great need of courage and solidarity which is grounded in the virtue of direct democracy.  Do you know that half the members of the US Congress are millionaires? The US is thus ruled by the elite oligarchs and cannot objectively be a democracy that represents the interests of the average citizen.

But given these truths where is such courage and solidarity to be found in our time? These very concepts are simply not know especially in the context of the United States where for more than 30 years we have all been trained to think within the ideology of Neoliberalism in which the opinion that the individual self as the ultimate ground of truth is so ingrained that it has become an unshakable dogmatic theology.

Prof. Brad Evans lecturing in the GCAS Series, "Philosophy and the Political: Perspectives on the Future of Democracy"

Prof. Brad Evans lecturing in the GCAS Series, “Philosophy and the Political: Perspectives on the Future of Democracy”

Where will such courage and solidarity come from?  This is the question we must all think seriously about if our destiny is to create a world of the commons in which all our diverse voices can rise up and create a world devoted to a better life of all people no matter their race, gender, or economic status.  The problem with this question is that we haven’t been trained to be able to even seriously think through and enact ideas such as courage and solidarity in our time. Perhaps we can find a space in which to pursue this and other closely connected concepts like courage, solidarity and democracy.  It is possible, indeed The Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS) is committed to creating this “space” in which we can come together and start to create a venue of learning, encouragement and growth.  The GCAS Series, “Philosophy and the Political: Perspectives on the Future of Democracy” was one of many courses in which we explored ideas about our future and how to live in these most dangerous times.  But We aren’t looking to just survive, this is why courage takes a community of support.  Together we move forward with each other.

What is especially significant about GCAS is that we are not funded by any one person, or a corporation.  We are strictly independent, which gives us the freedom to explore ideas without folding to the pressure of making a profit or peddling an anti-democratic agenda.  This is a community project so we are relying on your support and donations such as voluntary work or modest contributions. We are fighting for this special and even what our President, Alain Badiou calls, a “precious” space.  So we invite you to be part of what it means to struggle for a better world.

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This entry was posted on January 5, 2015 by .
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