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The Institute on world affairs the Institute on world affairs held each year on the San Diego State campus brings together statesmen scholars military leaders and businessmen from all over the world. The purpose of this institute is the understanding of the problems and challenges that face man gained through knowledge and discussion. This year's theme was toward a new world and here to introduce this session speaker is Professor Minos generalise director of the Institute for damage because democracy is a much beleaguered one. If we're going to examine the future certainly. Predominant in the minds of all of us is where it is this particular facet of human. Annuity. Or custom. What you will. Become. We analyze this subject. In a different manner last year when. Dr Fred
prince will be speaking to us today. Spoke under the title democracy extremism and foreign policy. I look now as more to the future. The role of the individual in the state. Which is undoubtedly been. Under scrutiny. From every possible angles and SANTICH will take. On the idea was promoted by the ancient Greeks that. Perhaps. The subject should have something to do do something to say about his governance. Never has a balance. Spin perfect. Perhaps never has it been challenges much as it is today. It is not surprising the rest make us pick the title of a democratic mythology. It would be interesting to hear what he has to say in addressing himself to this subject. I will not take up much of your time in introducing him to U.S.A. has appeared on this forum on many
previous occasions and we're very happy to have him with us again. As you know he is an associate professor of political science at the University of Southern California and presently chairman of the Department of Political Science at that institution. He started the University of California at Syracuse University over the past. He has published extensively. He has had a considerable concern about the role of the individual in democracy and he comes to us here not only as a political scientist persistency or idealist concerned of the future of mankind. His great pleasure that we introduce to you once more our friend and colleague Dr. Fred Krzycki. Hello. I'm sure it's an apocryphal tale. But there's a wonderful story told of the meeting one day in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Eve and where Adam turned to him and said to her you know my dear we're living in an age of transition.
I suspect that every great society which finds itself plagued by various ills social political and otherwise has the sense of itself that it is living both in an age of transition and in an age of crisis. And despite the fact that this latter term has been so terribly overworked in the last half century or so the fact does remain that we do live in an age of crisis and age perhaps unparalleled in the number and in the types of problems that we its citizens face. There are a number of characteristics of every age of crisis. Perhaps the leading characteristic is the fact that the people who live in such an age are quite willing. In fact perhaps forced to take a very serious look at the shibboleths which prevail in that society
and we have come to see that many of the things which we used to take for granted are no longer held the sacred. And that many of the things in the fields of politics philosophy religion art music which our parents and grandparents took almost as revelation from cyanide. We have been ready both to discard or if not to discard at least to completely re-evaluate what I would like to do with you this morning is an attempt to re-evaluate the basic philosophical foundations of what we in the West have referred to as political democracy and which we in the West are going to have to face again in terms of the question. Are these really in practice the actual contemporary foundations or are we in the need for some kind of major philosophical and then practical overhauling of the system by which we say we live.
The two men who contributed most to the philosophical underpinnings of Western democratic philosophy were two Englishmen named Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and I shan't take too much of your time this morning in reviewing their major teachings other than to say at least in passing that in successive chronological order the two of them brought into being a concept of individual ism which prior to their time had been missing in western political thought. Many great philosophers in Western political theory prior to Hobbes and Locke. Had placed an individual man somewhere in their hierarchy of values but usually in terms of how he fit into a total societal picture and the citizen the individual was almost always seen as part of a totality rather than having been seen and valued for himself as an individual. If nothing else Hobbes and Locke wrote a political philosophy which
place the individual or man the discrete individual at the core of their system and from their day on almost all of Western democratic political thought has revolved about the contributions that these two men made. And I think it's fairly safe to summarize almost all of original Western political democratic thought. By saying that it grew up and spread from its focus in Western Europe over a period of three centuries resting on three main propositions. First that the individual conscience is the ultimate source of the solutions about what is right and what is wrong. Secondly that there exist between different individuals. A fundamental harmony of interest strong enough to enable them to live peacefully together in society. And third that where action has to be taken in the name of society.
Rational discussion between individuals is the best method of reaching at the Sishen on that action so that modern democracy. It is in virtue of its origin its individualistic optimistic and rational. It is based upon or has been based upon the individual as the main figure in society upon optimism in terms of a harmony of interest which brings all peoples together and rational in its insistence and in its face. That problems that are faced can be resolved through the rational discussion among given the vigils. These three basic foundations of democratic philosophy are very three which have undergone the most brutal attack and which have in many
instances failed to meet the test of time. And I would like to take each of these three and do a brief analysis of them and see where if any place we can continue to incorporate them within the Democratic mythology of the future and where they need perhaps in much greater overhauling. When we speak of the inherent rights of the individual the individual isn't based upon the theories of Hobbes and Locke. We find that these rights are often based upon something called natural law. And according to this ancient conception the function of a democratic government is not to create is not to innovate but to interpret and apply rights which already exists. This is perhaps the major thinking of both clubs and certainly Locke. That men come into civil society with preexisting rights and that the major function of government is not to be a creative powerful
force but the major function of government instead is to see to it that the right with which men are born remain protected. And that's what came into being with him first and then the United States is an individual this tradition very much akin to the laissez faire position in economics that politics somehow or other is an artificial force is inimical to human progress and even more to the point that the individual enjoyed certain indefeasible rights against society. Almost all of our earlier political tradition is geared to the idea that man must be protected as an individual from the single major force which can emerge as a tyrant over him. The government there was a almost simplistic dichotomy as between men and their rights and a
government which was to serve as a vehicle for the fulfillment of those rights but against which men must constantly be protected and from which men must be somehow or other also protected in order to make sure that the government which in the past it's been symbolized by had emerged as a symbol for the pretty lucky and philosophers as the ultimate potential of tyranny this ultimate potential of tyranny should not be able to force itself upon the new individual who emerged in this new society. Furthermore Locke introduced one other very vital thesis and this was the thesis of the natural rights of man and particularly as it emerged in Western political tradition the right of property. In latter day political ideology the defense of property in the democratic tradition has gone way beyond that which
Locke originally assumed for it. And I am always bemused by the fact that my political friends and enemies to the right of me and sometimes to the left of me both misunderstand Locke or perhaps in a very interesting fashion. Omit that of Locke's writings which they don't want to emphasize. But the purpose of property and the acquisition of property in early political democratic tradition was not so much a defense of property in itself as a sacred right or a something which was in humanly good. But the right to acquire property was an additional hedge against governmental potential to rate the thesis was that if men were free to act prior property enough men would acquire enough property to cease somehow or other a dispersal of power within society. And if enough people had a share of power through the acquisition of property it would become less possible
for any kind of centralized tyranny to emerge in such a society so that the value to property acquisition wasn't so much the property in itself was an extraordinary value but that the property served as an addition of barriers an additional hedge against possible governmental centralization and as I said potential tyranny over the populace at large. This conception based upon individual rights rooted in natural law was really a very natural byproduct of an oligarchic and conservative 18th century and it was equally natural that this conception should be challenged and ultimately rejected in the ferment of a revolution that proclaimed the supremacy of popular sovereignty. And it was perhaps Rousseau in the traditional history of
political philosophy who first Kant came to recognise that there was a mass society in which mass human rights could perhaps necessarily take precedence over the specific property rights that Locke wrote about. The second of the postulates that I made mention and that need some attention here in terms of the trilogy that I set forth for you at the outset is that of the fundamental harmony of interests. Again if we look back upon the development of democratic tradition we note that it was vital to western civilization to put forth the thesis that there exists a fundamental harmony of interest among individuals. This harmony of interest too was essentially a politically
conservative doctrine because it contended as a as a as a consequence that if the interests of the individual rightly understood coincided with the interests of the whole society then if any individual assailed the existing order he was acting against his own true interest and could be condemned not only as wicked but as shortsighted and foolish. What has happened in the 20th century is that this individual as democracy has been replaced by what so many writers have come to call Master Mark recy and has substituted for reasons that are come to a bit later this morning. The concept of the strong remedial state for the Doctrine of the natural harmony of interest. Certainly the writings of Marx Engels from the from the left and others who are totally wrong move from ideological conflict. From the left center and the right have come to
present to us a picture of the reality of the world in which men do not live so much in a harmony of interest milieu as much as they do in a conflict a milieu wherein for reasons of economics sociology religion politics and a host of other factors the true portrayal of man and society is not. Each man living in a harmony of interest with his fellow man that each man living within a framework of conflicting interests. The third characteristic which was an underpinning of theoretical democracy is we have come to know it was faith in rational discussion. This faith provided the most popular 19th century justification of the rule of the majority as the basis of the mark prosy. If indeed it is true if indeed it is true that each of us possesses essential irrational faculties wherein we could bring to
a discussion table our differences of opinion and there in a car and simple fashion result of the differences which seem to separate us then that this doctrine of reason becomes the doctrine of majority rule for obviously of 12 heads. Consider an answer to be X and six heads considered to be y. There is more reason on the side of those who argued twelve instead of six. Now this notion was really valid only in an age when such questions were comparatively few and simple enough to be accessible to the educated layman. What we have come to know is that as society has become extraordinarily more complex the nature of the problems becomes so great that we have almost abdicated the thought process that by rational discussion we can reach logical answers.
The 19th and 18th centuries are perhaps even more correctly the 17th and 18th centuries presented to the educated layman so relatively few problems of a complicated nature that it was open to reason that reason could resolve most of the problems. But when you come into our 20th century where people who spend all of their lives just in the field of tax reform are just in the field of Central American politics are just in the field of South East Asian politics. Do you anticipate that the average citizen will be so totally aware and so totally capable of resolving problems and answering problems by sitting down with others and having a bull session with with him has gone out of style politically and out of style in terms of the philosophical writers. But perhaps even more of a reason has been the fact that since the end of the 19th century particularly since the advent of Freud the whole. Theory of
man as a rational creature of man as a rational being has almost toppled if nothing else. Freud demonstrated that the fundamental attitudes of human beings in action and thought are largely determined at levels beneath that of consciousness and that the supposedly rational explanation of those attitudes which we offer to ourselves and to others are artificial and the Rania's rationalizations of processes which we have failed to understand. So that Freud told us that reason is given to us not so much to direct our thought and action but to camouflage the hidden forces which do direct. This is an even more devastating version of the marxist of substructure and superstructure because according to Freud the substructure of reality resides in the unconscious and what appears above the surface is no more than the reflection seen in it the
starting ideological mirror of what goes on underneath the political conclusion from all of this though Freud himself drew none. Is that any attempt to appeal to the reason of the ordinary man is a waste of time because in appealing to the reason of man you're appealing only to a very simple manifest level of that which underneath that manifests level is far more complicated and is usually non-rational at best and irrational at worst. So that by the middle of the 19th century the propositions of luck which the theory of liberal democracy were founded had all been subjected to these fundamental attacks and the attack broadened and deepened as the last half century has progressed individual ism began to give way to collectivism both an economic organization and in the forms of practice of mass the mark recy and certainly by the end of World War 1. The age of mass
civilization had certainly begun. And from the advent of that which we call mass civilization. The picture of democracy which emerged from these criticisms was the picture of an arena where powerful interest groups struggled for the mastery of society. The leaders themselves were often the spokesmen and instruments of historical processes which they did not fully understand. Their followers consisted of voters recruited in Marshall for purposes of which they were wholly unconscious by all the subtle techniques of modern psychological science and modern commercial advertising. The 20th century as we now live in it is perhaps at the culminating point of this revolution of mass man which was the scribe so aptly by Ortega and which is that since then since the early 30s been at the core of philosophical writings in the field of the mark recy
what I'm trying therefore to say to you almost in terms of an introduction to what I want to really deal with is that mass democracy is a new phenomenon. It is really a creation of this last half century. And I think it's inappropriate and misleading to consider it in terms of the philosophy of Locke or the liberal democracy of the 19th century. Mass democracy is new because the new democratic society the America in which we live is no longer a homogeneous closed society of equal economically secure individuals mutually recognizing one another's rights as they appeared in Locke's writing. But we really consist of an ill coordinated highly stratified mass of people of whom a large majority are primarily occupied with their daily struggle for existence. It is new
because the new democratic state can no longer be content to hold the ring in the strife of private economic interests but must enter the arena at every moment and take the initiative in urgent issues of economic policy which affect the daily life of all of the citizens and especially of the least secure. It is new because the all the rationalist assumptions of lock and liberal democracy have broken down under the weight of both change material conditions new scientific insights and inventions and because the leaders of the new democracy are concerned no longer primarily with the reflection of opinions but with the molding and manipulation of opinions. Mass democracy therefore is that difficult. And here the two largely uncharted territory and we should be nearer the mark and we should have a much more convincing slogan that we spoke of the need not so much
defending democracy but of creating a new form and understanding of democracy. And it is a particular response to these changes that a whole group of writers has emerged in American life. Who can be labeled perhaps minimalist Democrats. They are again not to be found in any single area of the political spectrum but they range from the Slesinger if you will on the left. To Walter Lippmann if you will in the center and Kirk among others on the right. What these men have to say in common is that contemporary condition. The total complexity of contemporary society the maelstrom within which we find ourselves as a result not of ideological plottings by anybody in the political society but simply as a byproduct of the
accelerated rate of industrial and social growth. As a result of finding ourselves in this kind of society. We need they say a modification of traditional democratic theory. Most of them therefore argue that the average American citizen can clearly no longer play the role and vision for him by early democratic theory. Not only because of the citizens imperfection of mind and will. But also because as I have stated the issues have become so deep so obscure. And the machinery for their resolution is so complex that ordinary men are helpless before the onslaught of these ideas. What is worse most average citizens recognise this helplessness and recognize the failure of their role. That said that a CEPT for them and their inability to take part in the society then is strange is them from the political
order. So that Schlesinger for example characterizes this as a divorce between theory and practice. And he says that has led us to a morbid and dangerous condition. And he says we invite ourselves to disaster so long as our belief system demands a major role for the citizen and at the same time limit severely the ability of people who must rule from ruling therefore the minimalist. The Democrats have begun to argue that in our free societies we must learn to live with a new concept of democracy one in which the citizens role is confined to selecting heroic leaders who must then be left free to cope and some Sapir of fashion with the grotesquely difficult problems of our time. What the Lipans perhaps says that for all of them when he argues in his
public philosophy that in the tradition of civility the special political competence of the people is to give their consent to being government to grant or to withhold approval of the measures taken by leadership but that it is not within the competence of the average citizen to do more. It is not his role to participate actively. It is not his role to direct our guide the leadership with an affirmative voice and perhaps again as a spokesman for so very many of them a leading writer in the field a minimalist democracy wrote an essay some seven or eight years ago in which he said let's not get out the vote in which he raises a terrible furor over the nonsense putting. Get out and vote on the on the milk bottle tops and posters all over the wall when history says was for
God's sake let's keep all these idiots who don't know anything about politics away from the polls to invite disaster is to or to invite mass participation by incapable people is to invite disaster and we should. We should once and for all cut us selves apart totally forever from the notion that democracy means complete participation by each and every individual citizen. We must come to the realization say the minimalist Democrats that we have progressed to a point in society where the average man cannot take part in the decisions and the determinations of that society's affairs and that his greatest role in fact his major function is to choose those leaders who can heroically perform the tasks of keeping the society free. But leaving the decision making to the experts who can who can readily understand what to do.
But for those of us who have been in the field of political philosophy it's almost a delightful return if the life is perhaps the correct expression to the Platonic notion of the Guardians. But as there was the case with Plato's guardians there are some of us who have some doubts and we raise the question again who shall who shall watch the garden and how shall we know that those who are the experts are indeed going to rule in the name of the people for the same goals that the people want to achieve. I would say therefore that there are many of us who still believe that the current trend in democratic political theoretical writing denouncing and decrying classical political democracy hasn't really fully understood classical democratic theory.
Toward a new world
Democratic mythology: A new look, part one
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San Diego State University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents the first part of a lecture by Dr. Fred Krinsky, University of Southern California.
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Lectures recorded at San Diego State College's 25th Annual Institute on World Affairs. The Institute brings together world leaders to discuss issues in politics, culture, science, and more.
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Producing Organization: San Diego State University
Speaker: Krinsky, Fred, 1924-1997
Speaker: Generales, Minos D.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-9-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:47
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Chicago: “Toward a new world; Democratic mythology: A new look, part one,” 1968-01-24, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “Toward a new world; Democratic mythology: A new look, part one.” 1968-01-24. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Toward a new world; Democratic mythology: A new look, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from