The Concept of Democracy as a Historical Fiasco

Nowadays, it represents a commonplace assumption among many people that democracy is the best form of societal governing. As Dewey pointed out, “Democratic political forms are simply the best means that human wit has devised up to a special time in history” (1937, p. 457). This assumption, however, cannot be referred to as being undisputed, because there are indeed a number of reasons to consider democracy (in the traditional sense of this word) as probably the most ineffective and even counterproductive method of running a country/society. In this respect, we can only agree with George Byron, who defined democracy as the ‘aristocracy of scumbags’ (Arblaster 2002). In this paper, I will aim to substantiate the validity of the above-stated at length, while promoting the idea that the realities of a modern living deem the concept of democracy hopelessly outdated.

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The main reason why democracy is being favoured out of the rest of the governmental paradigms is that it supposedly provides all citizens with the right to participate in the process of the socio-political policies being designed and implemented. After all, by casting ballots during the course of elections, which take place on a periodic basis, people are able to elect specifically those politicians, whose political agenda appears to be the most appealing to them.

This, of course, promotes the cause of egalitarianism within the society – something that is being thoroughly consistent with people’s unconscious attraction towards the notion of fairness. This state of affairs is explainable, the incorporation of the democratic system of ‘checks and balances’, as the society’s regulative mechanism, indeed increases the likelihood for the elected governmental officials to be able to resist the temptation to abuse their powers. As Kolakowski noted, “(Democracy implies that) the law acts as an autonomous mediating device between an individual or corporate interests and the state and is not an instrument of ruling elites” (1990, p. 77).

Another common assumption, which legitimises the idea of democracy, is that the ‘majority rule’ is necessarily better than the ‘minority rule’. This assumption has to do with people’s tendency to think of quality in term of quantity and vice versa – something that it is predetermined by the fact that, despite their intellectual sophistication, the representatives of Homo Sapiens species are in essence nothing but ‘hairless apes’.

Nevertheless, when subjected to an analytical inquiry, the idea of democracy will appear as such that does not hold much water. One of the main indications that it is indeed the case is that the history of humankind knows not even a single example of what can be deemed a truly democratic society. Some people may disagree with the above-stated, while referring to the ancient Greek ‘city-polices’, as such that exemplified what democracy is all about.

This referral, however, cannot be considered fully legitimate due to the fact that ancient Greek democracy was nothing but the form of oligarchy – only the rich and socially prominent citizens in the ‘city-polices’ were allowed to vote, with slaves and women having been effectively deprived of this right (Winters 2011). This, of course, suggests that there is something utterly unnatural to the idea in question – had it been otherwise, there would be examples in the history of the fully democratic societies having proven thoroughly effective. However, there is none.

The idea of democracy will also appear conceptually fallacious, once the claim that the rule of the majority is something necessarily positive is being reassessed. The reason for this is that, as practice indicates, the majority of citizens always vote for specifically the populist politicians, whose political stances happened to be consistent with people’s unconscious strive to refrain from applying a will-powered/conscious effort into making their country a better place to live. This explains the secret to ensuring the popularity of just about any politician – he or she must be willing to tell voters what they would like to hear – even though the ultimate consequence of this would be depriving these people of any better prospects in life.

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Figuratively speaking, democracy is nothing else but the ‘rule of mob’, concerned with encouraging people to rely on their animalistic instincts, when it comes to participating in the political process (Huysmans 2004). What is particularly dangerous, in this respect, is that, while the part of mob, even the intellectually advanced individuals lose their ability to rationalise life-challenges, which in turn has always been considered one of the main preconditions that enable the continuation of the social, cultural and technological progress.

As one of the American founding fathers James Madison rightly suggested, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob” (Kaplan 1997, p. 55). This is the reason why the notions of ‘intellectualism’ and ‘democracy’ do not correlate even slightly (Giroux 2009). There is this story, about one very smart professor who was approached with the question of why did he not participate in the elections, to which the wise guy replied, “Statistically speaking, my vote would prove utterly insignificant, so why bother?”

The reply was challenged: “If everyone thought just like you, then nobody would cast ballots, and there would be no elections, in the first place”. The professor handled this remark with ease: “Do not worry – statistically speaking, the number of fools in just about every society is much greater than that of smart individuals” (Whitefield 2009, p. 95). Thus, there can be indeed only a few doubts as to the sheer ineffectiveness of democracy, as the way of conducting political affairs.

One may wonder why, given the earlier mentioned considerations, democracy continues to be praised, as the only appropriate form of a political governing? The answer to this question is quite apparent – it helps the rich and powerful representatives of the social elites ensuring their hegemonic dominance within the society, in the sense of providing ordinary citizens with the illusion that their opinions do count, within the context of how the socio-political policies are being designed. This, of course, reduces the acuteness of the objectively existing social tensions in ‘democratic’ countries.

To illustrate the validity of this suggestion, we can well refer to what accounts for the essence of political dynamics in the self-proclaimed ‘beacon of democracy’ – the U.S. As we are well aware, even though there is a number of political parties in this country, there has been not even a single instance of the representative of these parties having been elected the President – it is always either Democrats or Republicans who hold the Presidential office. This state of affairs can be explained, once we mention the most important aspect of the ‘democratic process’ in today’s America (and in the rest of Western countries) – the fact that the way in which people vote, during elections, is largely predetermined by how the mainstream Media go about covering the political events.

Because the privately-owned Media treat the rest of the country’s political parties as if they are non-existent, there is no surprise that it is specifically Republicans and Democrats, who unilaterally define the country’s political sphere (Marron 2002). Moreover, as practice indicates, there is no real difference between Democrats and Republicans, especially in respect to their suggestions about what should be the essence of the country’s foreign policies. The reason for this is that both of these parties serve the interests of the American oligarchs, who ‘own’ the affiliated politicians – regardless of what happened to be the formal political affiliation of the latter.

This, of course, poses a legitimate question – why having two major political parties in the U.S., whereas, there could have been just one? The rationale behind this is the same as it happened to be behind the practice of placing the bottles of Coca-Cola with the bottles of Pepsi on the same shelve in the store. This enables consumers to experience the illusion of making a conscious choice while deciding in favour of buying either of the mentioned beverages – despite the fact that these beverages taste exactly the same and the fact that the brand-names Cola-Cola and Pepsi are owned by the essentially the same group of people. Thus, democracy can be well discussed as a form of psychological manipulation.

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The representatives of the financial elites (who remain behind the scenes, while ‘pulling strings’) simply came to realise that it would be much easier for them to continue exploiting their co-citizens if the latter could be misled to believe that their political opinions do count (Dunn 2007). This is why ordinary citizens are being encouraged to participate in the charade of political elections once in a few years, even though the ultimate outcome of these elections gets to be decided upon, well before voters begin casting their ballots. As the famous saying goes – it is not the voters who predetermine the results of elections, but those who count the votes. With respect to what happened to be the essence of American politics, we can add – and those who control the Media.

This is exactly the reason why, even though American and European politicians never cease indulging in the rhetoric about the importance of ensuring the ‘freedom of press’, they begin singing an entirely different song, once citizens decide to take practical advantage of their constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of speech, in the form of popularising ‘inconvenient’ information about how ‘democracy’ works in reality. The validity of this statement can be shown, in regards to the famous ‘WikiLeaks scandal’, which took place after Julian Assange made the extensive number of secret documents (mostly concerned with the activities of American diplomats) available to be accessed online.

What these documents reveal is that America’s cause of ‘promoting democracy throughout the world’ is essentially concerned with the activities that stand in the striking contradiction to the very concept of the ‘international law’ – bribing foreign governmental officials, spying on even its closest allies, sponsoring international terrorists, etc. Predictably enough, Assange was accused of ‘spying’, with the American top-ranking officials openly calling for his arrest, so that he could be brought to the U.S. to face a number of criminal charges and even the prospect of being sentenced to death – even though he is not an American citizen (Warren 2012; Moore & Stone 2012).

While knowing perfectly well that by prosecuting Assange, the U.S. would be violating the main provisions of its own Constitution, the country’s officials and the ‘pay-rolled’ journalists are now trying to find a formal (legal) excuse to continue on with demanding for WikiLeaks to be closed down. For example, according to Peters, “WikiLeaks would not have the standing to raise the First Amendment-based privilege… because it is not engaged in investigative reporting, a process that involves more than the mere dumping of documents and requires the minimization of harm” (2011, p. 676). This, of course, could not result in anything else but in more and more people beginning to perceive the concept of democracy, as being synonymous with the notion of hypocrisy – all thanks to the ‘beacon of democracy’.

There is even more sinister aspect to America’s preoccupation with promoting ‘democracy’ – every time the country’s top-officials raise their concerns about the absence of democracy in a particular country, it means is that the U.S. decided to take over this country’s natural resources – pure and simple (Stromberg 2006). In other words, as of recently, the term ‘democracy’ began to mean war – in the literal sense of this word.

The full soundness of this suggestion can be illustrated, in regards to the series of the so-called ‘democratic revolutions’ (orchestrated by the CIA) that took place in Libya, Egypt and Syria – hence, turning these countries in the battleground of for the never-ending war of ‘everybody against everybody’. Nevertheless, nothing showed better that ‘democracy’ is nothing but a meaningless buzzword, which is being used when it comes to justifying the West’s atrocious agenda than the recent anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine, which was organised and financed by the U.S.

The American governmental officials do not even try to make any secret of it, “In a speech to the National Press Club on December 13, 2013… Nuland boasted that the US has ‘invested’ $5 billion in ‘organizing a network’ to give Ukraine ‘the future it deserves’” (‘Defeat Neocon’ 2014, p. 1). As a result of this ‘democratic’ coup, Ukraine was taken over by the Neo-Nazis, who openly fly flags with swastikas and who are now shelling the country’s Russian-speaking citizens in the East with heavy artillery. Nevertheless, even though what the Ukrainian new government does to its own people fits well into the definition of ‘genocide’, the most democratic country in the world continues to turn a blind eye on it – simply because it wants to move its military bases closer to Russia.

According to the U.S. State Department’s official spokesmen, there is nothing wrong about the fact that the ‘democratic’ Ukrainian government declared half of the country’s population ‘terrorists’ and began to exterminate them en masse (Leonard 2014). Therefore, it will be thoroughly appropriate, on our part, to suggest that in the near future, the term ‘democracy’ will attain the necessarily negative sounding, much similar to that of the term ‘Nazism’, for example.

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The main argumentative claims, contained in this paper, can be summarised as follows:

  1. The mechanics of how the ‘system of checks and balances’ works are not being concerned with the theoretical provisions of democracy, but rather with the existence of the status quo between the most powerful representatives of the society’s elites.
  2. Democracy, as the form of a political governing, derives out of the assumption that the rule of the ‘rule of majority’ is the most beneficial for the affiliated society’s well-being. Yet, those even slightly familiar with the history of humankind, would not be able to refer to this assumption to as anything else but utterly erroneous.
  3. There are only two ways for the ideals of democracy to be implemented practically – either in the form of oligarchy or ochlocracy. Yet, whereas, the former presupposes the absence of a true egalitarianism within the society (the main premise of democracy), the latter implies the sheer ineffectiveness of how this society if being governed.
  4. The main indication that a particular society can be considered democratic is this society’s willingness to allow its members to indulge in the unrestricted informational transactions. In this respect, the WikiLeaks-scandal effectively exposed even the world’s most democratic countries, such as the U.S., as being nothing short of the freedom-oppressing dictatorships.
  5. As of today, the term ‘democracy; became closely affiliated with America’s geopolitical agenda to continue dominating in the world, in order to be able to break the provisions of the international law in the most blatant manner. In its turn, this will necessarily result in this term losing the remains of its former emotional appeal.

I believe that the provided earlier line of argumentation, in defence of the idea that the concept of democracy can no longer be considered discursively legitimate, is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis. Apparently, it is indeed only the matter of time before the concept of democracy will be deemed as such that has sustained an utter historical fiasco – much as it happened to be the case with Marxism, for example.


‘Defeat Neocon conspiracy in Ukraine!’, Daily News, 2014, p. 1. Arblaster, A 2002, Democracy, Open University Press, Celtic Court.

Dewey, J 1937, ‘Democracy and educational administration’, School and Society, vol. 45, pp. 457-467.

Dunn, J 2007, ‘Capitalist democracy: elective affinity or beguiling illusion?’, Daedalus, vol. 136, no. 3, pp. 5-13.

Giroux, H 2009, ‘The spectacle of illiteracy and the crisis of democracy’, Perspective, pp. 1-5.

Huysmans, J 2004, ‘Minding exceptions: the politics of insecurity and liberal democracy’, Contemporary Political Theory, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 321-341.

Kaplan, R 1997, ‘Was democracy just a moment’, The Atlantic Monthly, pp. 55-80.

Kolakowski, L 1990, ‘Dangers to democracy’, Society, pp. 77-79.

Leonard, P 2014, ‘Ukraine deploys troops in anti-terror operation’, The Epoch Times, 14 April, pp. A10-A11.

Marron, B 2002, ‘Doubting America’s sacred duopoly: disestablishment theory and the two-party system’, Texas Forum on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 303 – 363.

Moore, M & Stone, O 2012, ‘Wikileaks and free speech’, The New York Times, pp. 1-3.

Peters, J 2011, ‘WikiLeaks would not qualify to claim Federal Reporter’s Privilege in any form’, Heinonline, vol. 63, pp. 667-696.

Stromberg, J 2006, ‘Imperialism, noninterventionism, and revolution: opponents of the modern American empire’, The Independent Review, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 79-113.

Warren, C 2012, ‘WikiLeaks and free fpeech’, Media, Entertainment and Arts, pp. 1-8.

Whitefield, S 2009, ‘Russian citizens and Russian democracy: perceptions of state governance and democratic practice, 1993-2007’, Post-Soviet Affairs, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 93-117.

Winters, J 2011, ‘Democracy and oligarchy’, The American Interest, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 18-27.

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