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Democracy: Principles and Critiques

Diversity and Democracy

Diversity has become a popular human resources concept in the recent years (Levine, 2003). The way its ideas seem to correlate with the principles of democracy makes them very alluring.

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The Democratic Principles Chosen

Among the main principles of democracy the equality of all people and the importance of their inherent rights can be mentioned (Santas, 2007).

Diversity Supporting Democracy

Diversity may be regarded as the respect towards individual difference or to the differences exhibited by groups of people (Levine, 2003). According to Levine (2003), the first view on the ideas of diversity is already established through the law. The mentioned principles of democracy reflect the fact that this approach is long-accepted by democratic societies. It seems that the ideas of diversity stem from these principles and are its products.

Diversity as a concept of human resources strategies is mainly concerned with the second interpretation, the idea of different minority groups representation at the workplace. According to Groeneveld and Van de Walle (2010), this kind of diversity is an “a-political” and “a-social” approach that is aimed at profit and not at creating a just society. Yet, they cannot reject the fact that this approach serves to maintain the principles of democracy, promoting the ideas of human rights and equality regardless of the race, gender or sexual orientation of the people concerned.


Having stemmed from the democratic principles, the ideas of diversity call for the promotion of tolerance and mutual respect. Although, as it has been mentioned by Levine (2003), idealizing this concept may lead to misunderstandings and misuse, diversity has become another way of defending human rights while opening new economic possibilities for organizations worldwide.

Democracy Critiques

The two critiques that were chosen for this part of the paper are described in the articles “Is Democracy Possible?” by B. Gilley (2009) and “Plato’s criticisms of Democracy in the Republic” by G. Santas (2007).

According to Santas (2007), despite the amount of time that has passed since Plato’s death, we his ideas concerning democracy should be taken into consideration. He was a witness of Athenian democracy which did not impress him, however. He believed that “democracy prizes freedom far too much and knowledge far too little” (Santas, 2007, p. 71). This belief along with the ideas about the “completely good city” explained the reasons for his critique.

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Gilley (2009) explains that democracy nowadays is subjected to criticism both from the representatives of the so-called “true people”, the lower class and from the higher class. He pays particular attention to the latter, the right-wing opponents, as he expresses his idea that their views are faulty.

The validity of the Critiques

Some of the points suggested by Plato have been accepted as reasonable by Santas (2007) and it is difficult to disagree. For example, Santas (2007) points out that the idea of smoothing out the differences in wealth distribution does not only have a sound ground but is implemented in democratic states through taxes and allowances. Still, it is obvious that modern democracies have not managed to eliminate poverty or excessive wealth which presupposes inequality. The author suggests that there is room for improvement in this respect.

Another Plato’s point that appears most valid is his respect towards intelligence and disrespect toward the illiterate crowd. This problem is also emphasized by the right-wing opponents who believe that this crowd should not be allowed to participate in the governing process (Gilley, 2009). Even though it may suggest some kind of discrimination of the illiterate, Santas (2007) believes that in most democratic countries power is indeed given to the “cleverest”. But it is the “crowd” who has the right to vote for the best citizens and it is not as illiterate as the right-wing opponents believe. Besides, Santas (2007) suggests that activities aimed at eliminating illiteracy should be undertaken. The problem, therefore, can be solved without questioning democracy.

The invalidity of the Critiques

Some of Plato’s suggestions are incompatible with democracy. If the idea of equal wealth distribution appears sane, the idea of depriving the ruling class of their possessions presupposes discrimination. Plato’s criticism of human liberties is also unacceptable from the point of view of democracy. As for the ideas advocated by right-wing opponents, they are mostly based on the suggested incompetence, ignorance and illiteracy of the largest part of a population. The fault of these views is obvious: in case a state’s population is critically illiterate, the government should intend to change this.

Supporting and Refuting the Critiques

Given the complexity of the notions discussed, it is difficult to decide which critique appears to be more logical. However, it is obvious that Plato’s criticism is presented in a more positive light. Gilley (2009) chooses a hostile position due to which his paper appears to be one-dimensional. This does not compliment the research and makes one wonder if it is objective or if there is more to say in the defense of the opposition. While Santas (2007) also presents arguments against Plato’s criticism, some of his ideas are emphasized as possible suggestions for future development of democracy. As it was already mentioned, while there are destructive and invalid ideas reflected in the two critiques, there are also those that could be taken into consideration.

If an aspect of a phenomenon raises substantial and reasoned criticism, it should be studied more closely. If critiques contain potentially beneficial suggestions, they should not be disregarded. It appears reasonable to study the ideas of the opponents of democracy to improve it. Criticism, even though it may endanger the ideas we hold dear, is more beneficial than destructive as it suggests a different point of view. Besides, democracy presupposes freedom of speech and encourages people to share their opinions in order to arrive at the most beneficial conclusions. Therefore, while it is only logical to reject the invalid ideas of the opponents, to support their valid points in their original or modified form can be helpful.


It can be concluded that since the time of its creation the idea of democracy was subjected to criticism. As the authors of the above-mentioned articles point out, it is perfectly natural for such a popularized idea. However, the attitude of democracy devotees towards this criticism can be different: while Santas (2007) attempts to evaluate its validity, Gilley’s (2009) approach is that of denying. The latter reaction can be even more harmful than the criticism itself. Criticism should not be insistently rejected; instead, one should pay attention to its valid, reasonable points. It is obvious that critiques can be used to modify and advance the idea of democracy and its practical implementation. Our conclusion is that paying attention to the ideas presented by the opponents of democracy can be most beneficial.

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Gilley, B. (2009). Is Democracy Possible? Journal Of Democracy, 20(1), 113-127.

Groeneveld, S., & Van de Walle, S. (2010). A contingency approach to representative bureaucracy: power, equal opportunities and diversity. International Review Of Administrative Sciences, 76(2), 239-258.

Levine, D. (2003). The Ideal of Diversity in Organizations. American Review Of Public Administration, 33(3), 278-294.

Santas, G. (2007). Plato’s criticisms of Democracy in the Republic. Social Philosophy & Policy, 24(2), 70-89.

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