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O P U S General Editors Keith Thomas Humanities J. S.

Weiner Sciences

C. B. M A C P H E R S O N

lh e Lite and limes ot Liberal Democracy

Bogazici University Library

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C . B. Macpherson 1977 First published 1977 as paperback and hardback simultaneously Paperback reprinted 1979 A l l rights reserved. No part o f this publication may be reproduced} stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, with out the prior permission o f Oxford University Press. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall nots by way o f trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form o f binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

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Preface

Readers m ay w onder at the shortness o f this book. T h e Life and Tim es5 in a title, usually signals a book ten times as long , as this one. But no such length is required by m y design, which is to set out in bold relief the essence o f liberal dem ocracy as it now is conceived, and as it has been and m ay be conceived. For this purpose brevity is better than exhaustive detail. I hope however that m y analysis is substantial enough both to estab lish the patterns I have found and to justify the criticism and praise from w hich I have seen no reason to abstain. Successive prelim inary versions o f this work have been pre sented for criticism in several universities: the earliest, most tentative, version at the U niversity o f British C olum bia, and subsequent versions, each profiting from earlier criticisms, at the Institute o f A dvan ced Studies o f the Australian National U niversity, the Institute o f Philosophy o f Aarhus University, and the U niversity o f Toronto. Parts o f it have also been pre sented and effectively criticized at several U nited States uni versities and some other C an adian universities. Colleagues and students who took part in the discussions in all those countries w ill recognize how m uch I have benefited from their criti cisms. Som e w ill wish I had benefited more. But I thank them all.

University o f Toronto 4 October ig y6

G.B.M.
,c>

BOGAZICI UNiVERSITESi KUTUPHANESI

427599

Contents

I Models and Precursors


T H E N A T U R E OF T H E I N Q U I R Y T H E US E OF M O D E L S (i) (ii) (iii)

i
I

2
2 6 8 9 9

Why models ? Why historically successive models ? Why these models ?


OF L I B E R A L D E M O C R A C Y

PRECURSORS (i) (ii)

Democracy and class Pre-nineteenth-century theories as precursors

12

II Model 1:

Protective Democracy

23
23
25 27 34

T HE B R E A K IN T HE D E M O C R A T I C TRADITION T H E U T I L I T A R I A N BASE B E N T H A M S E ND S OF L E G I S L A T I O N THE POLITI CAL REQUIREMENT D E M O C R A C Y FOR 42 J A ME S M I L L S S E E S A W PROTECTIVE M A R K E T MA N

37

III Model 2:

Developmental Democracy 44
44 50 64 69 S. M I L L S

T H E E M E R G E N C E OF M O D E L 2 M O D E L 2 A: J. DEVELOPMENTAL DEMOCRACY T H E T A M I N G OF T H E D E M O C R A T I C FRANCHISE MODEL

2 B: T W E N T I E T H - C E N T U R Y

DEVELOPMENTAL DEMOCRACY

IV Model 3:
ANALOGY

Equilibrium Democracy

77
77
82 83 84 84 91

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MARKET T H E A D E Q U A C Y OF M O D E L 3 (i) (ii) (iii)

Descriptive adequacy Explanatory adequacy Justificatory adequacy

T H E F A L T E R I N G OF M O D E L 3

V Model 4:

Participatory Democracy

93
93 94

T H E RI S E OF T H E I D E A IS M O R E P A R T I C I P A T I O N N O W POSSIBLE?

(i) The problem o f size


(ii)

94
98

A vicious circle and possible loopholes

M O D E L S OF P A R T I C I P A T O R Y DEMOCRACY (i)

108

(ii)

Model 4A: an abstract first approximation Model 4B: a second approximation


D E M O C R A C Y AS

108 1 12
114 116 118

PARTICIPATORY

LIBERAL DEMOCRACY?

Further Reading Index

I
Models and Precursors

THE

NATURE

OF T H E

INQUIRY

It is not usual to em bark on a Life and Tim es until the sub je c ts life is over. Is liberal dem ocracy, then, to be considered so nearly finished that one m ay presume now to sketch its life and times? T h e short answer, prejudging the case I shall be putting, is: Y es, if liberal dem ocracy is taken to mean, as it still very generally is, the dem ocracy o f a capitalist m arket society (no m atter how modified that society appears to be by the rise o f the welfare state); but N ot necessarily i f liberal dem ocracy is taken to mean, as John Stuart M ill and the ethical liberal-dem ocrats who followed him in the late nine teenth and early twentieth centuries took it to mean, a society striving to ensure that all its members are equallyTree to realize their capabilities. Unfortunately, liberal dem ocracy can mean either. For liberal can m ean freedom o f the stronger to do down the w eaker by following m arket rules; or it can mean equal effective freedom o f all to use and develop their capaci ties. T h e latter freedom is inconsistent w ith the former. T h e difficulty is that liberal dem ocracy during most o f its life so far (a life which, I shall argue, began only about a hun dred and fifty years ago even as a concept, and later as an actual institution) has tried to combine the two meanings. Its life began in capitalist m arket societies, and from the begin ning it accepted their basic unconscious assumption, which m ight be paraphrased M arket m aketh m an. Y e t quite early on, as early as John Stuart M ill in the m id-nineteenth cen tury, it pressed the claim o f equal individual rights to selfdevelopm ent, and justified itselflargely by that claim. T h e two

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

ideas o f liberal dem ocracy have since then been held together uneasily, each w ith its ups and downs. So far, the m arket view has prevailed: liberal has con sciously or unconsciously been assumed to m ean capitalist*. This is true even though ethical liberals, from M ill on, tried to com bine m arket freedom w ith self-developm ental freedom, and tried to subordinate the former to the latter. T h ey failed, for reasons explored in C hapter III. H ere I am simply suggesting that a liberal position need not be taken to depend forever on an acceptance o f capitalist assumptions, although historically it has been so taken. T h e fact that liberal values grew up in capitalist m arket societies is not in itself a reason w hy the central ethical principle o f liberalism the freedom o f the individual to realize his or her hum an capacities need always be confined to such societies. O n the contrary, it m ay be argued that the ethical principle, or, i f you prefer, the appetite for individual freedom, has out grow n its capitalist m arket envelope and can now live as w ell or better w ithout it, just as m ans productive powers, which grew so enormously w ith com petitive capitalism , are not lost when capitalism abandons free com petition or is replaced by some form o f socialism. I shall suggest that the continuance o f anything that can pro perly be called liberal dem ocracy depends on a dow ngrading o f the m arket assumptions and an upgrading o f the equal right to self-development. I think there is some prospect o f this happening. But it is far from certain that it w ill happen. So I have felt justified in keeping the sombre title Life and Tim es . M y m ain concern in this short w ork is to examine the limits and possibilities o f liberal dem ocracy. L et me explain now w hy I have done this in terms o f models, and w hy I have chosen certain models as appropriate and, sufficient. This w ill lead into a consideration o f certain earlier models w hich I have relegated to the position o f precursors o f liberal dem ocracy.

THE

USE OF MO D E L S

(i) Why models ? I am using the term m odel in a broad sense, to m ean a

Models and Precursors

theoretical construction intended to exhibit and explain the real relations, underlying the appearances, between or within the phenom ena under study. In the natural sciences, which are mostly concerned with phenom ena not variable by hum an will or by social change, successive models (as those o f Ptolemy, Copernicus, N ewton, Einstein) are successively fuller and more sufficient explanations o f the real, invariant relations. In the social sciences, concerned with phenom ena which, within his torically shifting limits, are variable by hum an will, models (or theories, as we m ay equally well call them) m ay have two additional dimensions. First, they m ay be concerned to explain not only the under lying reality o f the prevailing or past relations between wilful and historically influenced hum an beings, but also the prob ability or possibility o f future changes in those relations. By sort ing out m ain lines o f change, and apparently unchanging characteristics, o f man and society up to the present, they m ay try to discern forces o f change, and limits o f change, w hich m ay be expected to operate in the future. N ot all the theorists who have form ulated laws o f change have seen them as operating in a straight line: M achiavelli, for instance, thought in terms o f a cyclical m ovem ent as the historical pattern o f social and political change w hich could be expected to prevail indefinitely into the future. But ever since the eighteenth-century En lightenm ent, w ith its idea o f progress, it has been more usual to think in terms o f a straight line. O f the theorists who have seen a single m ain line o f past change, not all have projected it far, i f at all, into the fu tu re: for instance, such eighteenth-century writers as M ontesquieu, T u rgot, M illar, Ferguson, and A dam Sm ith, who glimpsed or form ulated the law o f four stages o f society hunting, pastoral, agricultural, com m ercial -were apt to assume that the com m ercial was the final stage. But in the nineteenth century others, as different as C om te and M a rx and M ill, have, w ith greater or less stringency, projected a m ain line o f past developm ent into the future. A n y o f these kinds o f theory do o f course rely explicitly or im plicitly on models. T h e second additional dimension o f models in political theorizing is an ethical one, a concern for w hat is desirable or

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

good or right. T h e outstanding models in political science, at least from H obbes on, have been both explanatory and justi ficatory or advocatory. T h e y are, in different proportions, statements about w hat a political system or a political society is, how it does w ork or could work, and statements o f w hy it is a good thing, or w hy it would be a good thing to have it or to have more o f it. Some dem ocratic theorists have seen clearly enough that their theories are such a m ixture. Som e have not, or have even denied it. Those who start from the tacit assump tion that w hatever is, is right, are apt to deny that they are m aking any value judgem ent. Those who start from the tacit assumption that w hatever is, is wrong, give great w eight to their ethical case (while trying to show that it is practicable). A n d between the two extremes there is room for a considerable range o f emphasis. In any case, to show that a model o f a political system or a society, w hether the existing one or one not now existing but desired, is practicable, that is, that it can be expected to work well over a fairly long run, one must make some assumptions about the hum an beings by whom and with whom it is going to run. W hat kind o f political behaviour are they capable of? This is obviously a crucial question. A political system that dem anded, for instance, that the citizens have more rationality or more political zeal than they now dem onstrably have, and more than they could be expected to have in any attainable social circum stances, w ould not be w orth m uch advocacy. T h e stipulation I have just em phasized is im portant. W e are not necessarily lim ited to the w ay people behave politically now. W e are not lim ited to that i f we can show reasons for expecting that that could change with changes in, for instance, the technological possibilities and the econom ic relations o f their society. M ost, though not all, political theorist? o f all persuasions conservative traditionalist?, liberal individualists, radical re formists, and revolutionaries have understood very well that the w orkability o f any political system depends largely on how all the other institutions, social and economic, have shaped, or m ight shape, the people w ith whom and by whom the political system must operate. O n this, writers as different as Burke and M ill and M a rx are in agreem ent, although most o f the earlier

Models and Precursors

liberal theorists, from say Locke to Bentham, paid little atten tion to this. A n d it has generally been seen, at least in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, that the most im portant w ay in w hich the whole bundle o f social institutions and social relations shapes people as political actors is in the w ay they shape peoples consciousness o f themselves. For instance, when, as in the M iddle Ages and for some time after, the prevailing social arrangements have induced virtually everyone to accept an im age o f the hum an being as hum an by virtue o f his accept ing the obligations o f his rank or his station in life, a traditional hierarchical political system w ill work. W hen a com m ercial and an industrial revolution have so altered things that that im age is no longer accepted, a different im age is required. I f it is an im age o f m an as essentially a m axim izing consumer and appropriator we get a new consciousness, w hich permits and requires a quite different political system. If, later, in revulsion against the results o f this, people come to think o f themselves in some other w ay, some other political system becomes pos sible and even needed. So, in looking at models o f dem ocracy past, present, and prospective we should keep a sharp look-out for two things: their assumptions about the whole society in w hich the demo..cratic political system is to operate, and their assumptions about the essential nature o f the people who are to make the ' system w ork (which o f course, for a dem ocratic system, means the people in general, not just a ruling or leading class). T o speak, as I have ju st done, o f the society in w hich a dem ocratic political system is to operate m ay seem to suggest that only a political system is entitled to be called dem ocratic, that dem ocracy is m erely a mechanism for choosing and authorizing governments or in some other w ay getting laws and political decisions made. But we should bear in m ind that dem ocracy m ore often has been, and is, thought o f as much more than that. From M ill through L. T . Hobhouse, A . D . Lindsay, W oodrow W ilson, and John D ew ey, to the current proponents o f participatory dem ocracy, it has been seen as a quality pervading the whole life and operation o f a national or smaller com m unity, or i f you like as a kind o f society, a whole set o f reciprocal relations between the people who make up the

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

nation or other unit. Some theorists, mostly twentieth-century ones, insist on keeping the two senses separate. Some w ould even exclude the second sense altogether, by defining democracy as simply a system o f governm ent. But in any realistic analysis the two senses merge into each other. For difFerent models o f dem ocracy, in the narrow sense, are congruent with, and require, different kinds o f society. Enough now has been said about models in general to indi cate w hy an analysis o f liberal dem ocracy m ay conveniently be cast in terms o f models. T o exam ine models o f liberal dem o cracy is to exam ine w hat the people who w ant it, or w ant more o f it, or w ant some variant o f the present form o f it, believe it is, and also w hat they believe it m ight be or should be. This is more than one can do by simply analysing the operations and institutions o f any existing liberal dem ocratic states. A nd this : extra knowledge is im portant. For peoples beliefs about a i political system are not something outside it, they are part o f it. I Those beliefs, however they are formed or determined, do ' determine the limits and possible developm ent o f the system : they determ ine w hat people w ill put up with, and w hat they w ill dem and. In short, to work in terms o f models makes it easier to keep in m ind that liberal dem ocracy (like any other political system) has two necessary ingredients that m ay not appear on the surface: (a) to be workable, it must be not far out o f line with the wants and capabilities o f the hum an beings who are to work i t ; hence, the model o f dem ocracy must con tain (or take for granted) a model o f m an; and (b), since it needs general assent and support in order to be workable, the m odel must contain, explicitly or im plicitly, an ethically justificatory theory. (ii) Why historically successive models ? I f our object is to exam ine the limits and possibilities o f con tem porary liberal dem ocracy, w hy should we indulge in a Life and T im es ? W h y not confine ourselves to a current analysis? W ould it not be simpler to set up a single model o f present liberal dem ocracy, b y listing the observable characteristics o f the practice and theory com m on to those twentieth-century states w hich everyone would agree to call liberal democracies,

Models and Precursors

that is, the systems in operation in most o f the English-speaking w orld and most o f W estern Europe? Such a model could easily be set up. T h e m ain stipulations are fairly obvious. G overn ments and legislatures are chosen directly or indirectly by periodic elections w ith universal equal franchise, the voters choice being norm ally a choice between political parties. Th ere is a sufficient degree o f civil liberties (freedom o f speech, publication, and association, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment) to make the right to choose effective. T h ere is form al equality before the law. There is some pro tection for minorities. A nd there is general acceptance o f a principle o f m axim um individual freedom consistent with equal freedom for others. M a n y contem porary political writers do set up such a model. It can serve as a fram ework for investigating and dis playing the actual, the necessary, and the possible workings o f contem porary liberal dem ocracy. It can also be used to argue the ethical superiority o f liberal dem ocracy over other systems. W h y then should we not use a single m odel con structed from present practice and present theory? W h y look at successive models that have prevailed in turn in the century or so down to our time? T h e simplest reason is that using successive models reduces the risk o f m yopia in looking ahead. It is all too easy, in using a single model, to block o ff future p aths; all too easy to fall into thinking that liberal dem ocracy, now that we have attained it, b y w hatever stages, is fixed in its present mould. Indeed, the use o f a single contem porary m odel almost commits one to this position. For a single m odel o f current liberal dem ocracy, if it is to be realistic as an explanatory model, must stipulate cer tain present mechanisms, such as the com petitive party system and w holly indirect (i.e. representative) governm ent. B ut to d o ; this is to foreclose options that m ay be made possible by changed \ social and econom ic relations. T h ere m ay be strong differences o f opinion about w hether some conceivable future forms o f dem ocracy can properly be called liberal dem ocracy, but this is something that needs to be argued, not p ut out o f court by d efin itio n /O n e o f the things that needs to be considered is w hether liberal dem ocracy in a large nation-state is capable o f

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

m oving to a m ixture o f indirect and direct dem ocracy: that is, is capable o f m oving in the direction o f a fuller participation, w hich m ay require mechanisms other than the standard party system. There is another reason for preferring successive models: their use is m ore Jikely to reveal the full content o f the con tem porary model, the full nature o f the present system. For the presently prevalent model is itself an am algam , produced by partial rejection and partial absorption o f previous models. Each o f the first three models I have chosen has been for a time the prevalent model, that is, has been the one generally ac cepted, by those who were at all favourable to dem ocracy, as a statement o f w hat dem ocracy is, w hat it is for, and w hat insti tutions it needs. A nd each successive model, after the first, was form ulated as an attack on one or more o f the previous models. E ach has been offered as a corrective to or replacem ent o f its predecessor: the point o f departure has always been an attack on at least some part o f a preceding model, even when, as has often been the case, the new model em bodied substantial el ements o f an earlier one, sometimes w ithout the formulators apparently being aw are o f this. Thus each o f the models is to some extent an overlay on previous ones. So we are more likely to see the full nature o f contem porary liberal dem ocracy, and its possible future direction and limits, by looking at the suc cessive models, and at the reasons for their creation and for their failure. (iii) Why these models ? Even i f we are persuaded o f the merits o f m odel-building, and o f the value o f analysing liberal dem ocracy by exam ining successive prevalent models, the question, m ay be asked, w hy choose, as I have chosen, to. go back no farther than the nine teenth century? W h y not go b ack at least to Rousseau or Jefferson, or to the dem ocratic ideas associated w ith seven teenth-century Puritanism, as is more usually done by those who w ant to trace the roots o f modern liberal dem ocracy? This question cannot, w ithout circular reasoning, be settled sim ply b y definition. O ne could easily p ut forward a definition o f liberal dem ocracy by w hich some pre-nineteenth-century

Models and Precursors

theories and visions o f dem ocracy would qualify for inclusion. Thus if, as seems not unreasonable, one reduced the essentials o f liberal dem ocracy to three or four stipulations say, an ideal o f equal individual rights to self-development, equality before the law , basic civil liberties, and popular sovereignty with an equal political voice for all citizens leaving out any stipulations about representation, party systems and so on, then some earlier ideas o f dem ocracy could be included as liberal dem ocratic. E qually reasonably, by putting in stipula tions about representation etc. one m ay exclude various earlier concepts. T h e definition o f the model depends on value ju d g e ments about w hat are the essentials, and those judgem ents can not be defended m erely by invoking a definition. A re we left, then, w ith no basis for choosing between possible starting-points for liberal dem ocracy? I think not. For if our concern is w ith the possible future o f liberal dem ocracy, we must p ay attention to the relation between dem ocratic institu tions and the underlying structure o f society. A nd there is one such relation, largely neglected by current theorists o f liberal dem ocracy, w hich m ay be thought to be decisive. This is the relation between dem ocracy and class, I w ant now to argue that the most serious, and least exam ined, problems o f the present and future o f liberal dem ocracy arise from the fact that liberal dem ocracy has typically been designed to fit a scheme o f dem ocratic governm ent onto a class-divided society; that this fit was not attem pted, either in theory or in practice, until the nineteenth century; and that, therefore, earlier models and visions o f dem ocracy should not be counted as models o f liberal dem ocracy.
PRECURSORS OF L I B E R A L DEMOCRACY

(i) Democracy and class As soon as attention is focused on the relation between demo cracy and class, the historical record falls into a new pattern. It is, o f course, not new to notice that in the m ain Western tradition o f political thought, from Plato and Aristotle down to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, dem ocracy, when it was thought o f at all, was defined as rule by the poor, the

io

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

ignorant, and incom petent, a t the expense o f the leisured, civilized, propertied classes. D em ocracy, as seen from the upper layers o f class-divided societies, meant class rule, rule by the wrong class. It was a class threat, as incom patible w ith a liberal as with a hierarchical society. T h e main W estern tradi tion down to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that is to say, was undem ocratic or anti-democratic. But there were, indeed, in that whole stretch o f over 2000 years, recurrent dem ocratic visions, dem ocratic advocates, and even some examples o f dem ocracy in practice (though these never em braced a whole political com m unity). W hen we look at these dem ocratic visions and theories we shall find that they have one thing in common, w hich sets them sharply apart from the liberal dem ocracy o f the nineteenth and twentieth cen turies. This is, that they all depended on, or were made to fit, a non-class-divided society. It is hardly too m uch to say that for most o f them dem ocracy was a classless or a one-class society, not m erely a political m echanism to fit such a society. These earlier models and visions o f dem ocracy were reactions against the class-divided societies o f their times. As such they m ay properly be called utopian, an honourable nam e derived from the title o f Thom as M ores astonishing sixteenth-century w ork Utopia. This puts them in striking contrast to the liberal-dem ocratic tradition from the nineteenth century on, which accepted and' acknowledged from the beginning and more clearly at the beginning than later the class-divided society, and set out to fit a dem ocratic structure onto it. T h e concept o f a liberal dem ocracy becam e possible only w hen theorists first a few and then most liberal theorists found reasons for believing that one man, one vote would not be dangerous to property, or to the continuance o f classdivided societies. T h e first systematic thinkers to find so were Bentham and Jam es M ill, in the early nineteenth century. As w e shall see (in C hapter II) they based that conclusion on a m ixture o f two th in gs: first, deduction from their m odel o f m an (which assim ilated all men to a model o f bourgeois m axim i zing man, from w hich it followed that all had an interest in m aintaining the sanctity o f property); and second, their

Models and Precursors


observation o f the habitual deference o f the lower to the higher classes. So I find the watershed between utopian dem ocracy and liberal dem ocracy to come in the early nineteenth century. T h a t is m y reason for treating the pre-nineteenth-century theories as precursors o f liberal dem ocracy, rather than treat ing any o f them, say Rousseau or Jefferson or any o f the seventeenth-century Puritan theorists, as part o f the classical5 liberal dem ocratic tradition. This is not to say that the prenineteenth-century concepts have been neglected or dismissed b y the tw entieth-century theorists. O n the contrary, the earlier concepts have not infrequently been drawn in and appealed to, particularly by tw entieth-century exponents of w hat I am calling M odel 2. But this has not been m uch help to such exponents, for they have generally failed to notice that the class assumptions o f the earlier theories were incongruous with their own, I have said that those who presented favourable models or visions of dem ocracy before the nineteenth century intended them to fit, or to be, either classless or predom inantly one-class societies. Before looking at the pre-nineteenth-century record it w ill be well to state more specifically w hat is m eant by class in this context. Glass is understood here in terms o f p ro p erty: a class is taken to consist o f those who stand in the same relations o f ownership or non-ownership o f productive land and/or capital. A some w hat looser concept o f class, defined at its simplest in terms o f rich and poor, or rich and middle and poor, has been prom i nent in political theory as far back as one likes to go, though in the earliest theories (such as Aristotles) the criterion o f class was only im plicitly ownership o f productive property. However, the view that class* defined at least im plicitly in terms o f pro ductive property, was an im portant criterion o f different forms o f governm ent, and even an im portant determ inant o f what forms o f governm ent could come into existence and could work, was a view held by Aristotle, by M achiavelli, by the seventeenth-century English republicans, and by the A m erican Federalists, long before M a rx found in class conflict the motor o f history.

12

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

Some o f the non-dem ocratic theorists who gave class a central place in their analyses (for instance, Harrington) were much concerned w ith distinctions between classes based not ju st on property or no property, but on different kinds o f property relations, such as feudal versus non-feudal. But the dem ocratic theorists generally kept their eyes on a simpler distinction: that between societies w ith two classes, societies w ith only one class, and societies w ith no classes. Thus, some o f the earlier Utopians (like the present-day communists) have en visaged a society w ith no individual ownership o f productive land or capital, hence no property classes: this we m ay call a classless society. D ifferent from this is the idea o f society where there is individual ownership o f productive land and capital and where everyone owns, or is in a position to own, such p rop erty: this we m ay call a one-class society. Finally there is the society where there is individual ownership o f productive land and capital and where not everyone, but only one set o f people, owns such property: this is the class-divided society. T h e distinction here made between classless and one-class m ay seem somewhat arbitrary: the societies, or visions o f society, I am so describing m ight both o f them be properly enough described by either term. But since the two societies are significantly different, two different terms are needed to describe them, and it is more in accord w ith modern usage to keep the term classless5 for a society w ith no private ownership o f productive land or capital, and one-class for a society w here everyone does or m ay own such productive resources. (ii) Pre-nineteenth-century theories as precursors L et us now look at the record o f dem ocratic theory before the nineteenth century. In the ancient world there were o f course some outstanding actual functioning democracies, most notably the Athens celebrated by Pericles. But no record o f any substantial theory justifying or even analysing dem ocracy has survived from that era.1 W e m ay surmise that any such
1 Aristotle did briefly analyse various kinds o f democracy', under which head he included systems with, a moderate property qualification for voting. He was strongly opposed to full democracy: the only kind in which he found any merit was one in which husbandmen and those of moderate fortune had supreme power (Politics, iv c. 6, 1292 b; cf. vi c. 4, 1318 b).

Models and Precursors

13

theory would have taken, as the required base for dem ocracy, a citizen body made up m ainly o f persons not dependent on em ploym ent by others: that, at least, would correspond pretty w ell to the facts, as far as we know them, about the Athenian city-state in its dem ocratic period, w hich has been well de scribed as a property-owning dem ocracy. W e do not know if such a requirem ent, w hich amounts to the requirem ent of a one-class citizen body, was built into a theoretical model, since no theoretical model has come down to us: there can be no more than a reasonable supposition that it was. In the M iddle Ages one would not expect, nor does one find, any theory o f dem ocracy, or any dem and for a dem ocratic franchise: such popular uprisings as flared up from time to time were not concerned about an electoral franchise, for at that time pow er did not generally lie in elected bodies. W here feudalism prevailed, power depended on rank, w hether in herited or acquired by force o f arms. No popular movem ent, how ever enraged, would think that its aims could be achieved by its getting the vote. A nd in the nations and independent city-states o f the later M iddle Ages also, power was not to be sought in that w ay. W here voices were raised and rebellions m ounted against the late m edieval social order, as in the Jacquerie in Paris (135B), the uprising o f the Giom pi in Florence (1378), and the Peasants R evolt in England (1381), the demands were for levelling o f ranks, and sometimes for levelling o f property, rather than for a dem ocratic political structure. T h e y wanted either a classless communistic society, as indicated in the sentiment attributed to John Ball, o f Peasants R evolt fam e: Things cannot go w ell in England, nor ever w ill, until all goods are held in common, and until there w ill be neither serfs nor gentlemen, and we shall all be equal,2 or a levelled society where all might have property. T h ere is no record o f any o f these movements having produced any sys tem atic theory, nor having sketched a dem ocratic political structure. W hen we m ove on to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries we do find some explicit dem ocratic theories. T w o dem ocratic currents appear then in England. O ne o f them has a classless
2 Quoted in M . Beer: A History o f British Socialism} London, 1929, i. 28.

14

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

base, the other a one-class base. T h e dem ocratic utopias of those centuries, the best-known o f w hich are M o res Utopia (1516) and W instanleys The Law o f Freedom (1652), were classless societies. T h e y were envisioned as replacing classdivided societies: their authors constructed them to denounce all class systems o f power. Finding the basis o f class oppression and exploitation in the institution o f private property, they replaced it by com m unal property and com m unal work. These early modern visions o f dem ocracy were visions o f a funda m entally equal, unoppressive society, as well as prescriptions for a scheme o f governm ent. Such a society had to be classless, and to be classless it had to be w ithout private property. T h e other seventeenth-century dem ocratic current, in so far as it flowed in political and not simply religious channels, is no less related to class. English Puritanism, in that century, was rife with dem ocratic ideas. A lthough these were generated by controversies about church governm ent, and were actually put into effect only in that sphere (and, very briefly, in the arm y), they did spill over into ideas about civil governm ent, especially in the period o f the C ivil W ars and the Com m onwealth. But, except for such extreme radical Utopians as W instanley, the groups and movements whose political thinking m ay be said to have em erged from dem ocratic Puritanism were not politi cally dem ocratic. T h ey did not go so far as to dem and full popular sovereignty or a fully dem ocratic franchise. T h e Presbyterians and the Independents insisted on a prop erty qualification for the franchise. A bout the position o f the other main political movem ent, the Levellers, who were for a few years during the C ivil War's very strong, there is some dispute. I have shown elsewhere3 that the Levellers, as an organized m ovem ent, speaking in concerted manifestos, in tended to exclude all wage-earners and alms-takers (more than h a lf the adult males) from the franchise. But some historians4
3 The Political Theory o f Possessive Individualism, Oxford, 1962, ch. 3; and Democratic Theory, Essays in Retrieval, Oxford, 1973, Essay 12. 4 Keith Thom as: The Levellers and the Franchise, in G, E. Aylmer (ed.): The Interregnum: the Quest fo r Settlement, 1640 -1660 , London, 1972; and M . A. Barg, as cited in Christopher Hill: The World Turned Upside Down, London, 1972, pp. 94, 97.

Models and Precursors

15

have argued, in reply, that the Levellers, in their individual' writings and speeches, were not unanimous about this, and that some o f them were full democrats. I f this is allowed as a possible interpretation o f the statements o f some o f the L evel lers, we have to ask w hat class structure was thought, by any dem ocratic Levellers, to be consistent with or required by the dem ocracy they w anted? T h e answer is clear. A ll the Levellers were strongly against the class differences they saw around them, w hich enabled a class of landlords and moneyed men to dom inate and exploit the men o f small property (and even to reduce the latter to men o f no property). Some o f the most vehem ent Leveller tracts5 saw a class conspiracy of the men o f w ealth and rank, and w anted to put it down. T h e ideal o f all the Levellers was a society where all men had enough property to w ork on as independent producers, and where none had the kind or am ount o f property w hich would enable them to be an exploitive class. In short, the Levellers, whether or not any of them em braced full dem ocracy, all cherished the ideal of a one-class society. T h e Levellers had the same historical view o f society as Rousseau was to have a century later. T h e y found that the rot h ad set in w ith exploitive private property. T h e small private property o f the independent producer was a natural right. The large private property whioh enabled its owner to exploit the rest was a contradiction o f natural right. W hen we reach the eighteenth century we find some sub stantial theories-not m any w hich are usually, and quite properly, called dem ocratic. W e m ay take, as the leadings eighteenth-century exponents o f dem ocracy, Rousseau and Jefferson: their dem ocratic ideas have been more influential, m ore carried over into our own time, than any others of that century.6 M uch as Rousseaus and Jeffersons positions differed
6 e.g. those cited in The Political Theory o f Possessive Individualism, pp. 154-6. 6 James Madison has no doubt been at least as influential as Jefferson, if not more so, in American thinking: Robert Dahl for instance builds his twentieth-century model of democracy largely on Madison. And Madison appears to be an exception to my generalization, for he did, in the 1780s, recognize a class-divided society, and did try to fit a system of government to it. But he is no exception, for the system he proposed can scarcely be

16

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

in other respects, both o f them required a society where every one had, or could have, enough property to work on or work with, a society o f independent producers (peasants or farmers, and craftsmen), not a society divided into dependent wageearners on the one hand, and, on the other, land and capital owners on whom they were dependent. Rousseaus position is clear. .Private property is a sacred individual right.7 But only the m oderate property o f the small working proprietor is sacred. A n unlim ited property right, Rousseau argued forcefully in his Discourse on the Origins o f Inequality (1755), was the source and the continuing means of exploitation and unfreedom : only a lim ited right was m orally justifiable. H e reasserted this position in The Social Contract (1762). T h e first property, property in the original means o f producing the means o f life, was property in a piece o f land. T h e original right to land, the right o f the first occupier, was lim ited in two w a y s: ca man must occupy only the am ount he needs for his subsistence; and . . . possession must be taken, not by any em pty ceremony, but by labour and cultivation5 So .8 Rousseau found a basis in natural right for his insistence on lim ited property. He needed such a limited property right for another reason, w hich he also m ade explicit: only such a lim ited right was consistent w ith the sovereignty o f the general will. A truly dem ocratic society, a society that would be governed by the
called democratic: one need only look at his anxiety to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority5 (Max Farrand (E d .): The Records o f the Federal Convention i? 8 y , revised edn., New Haven and London, 1937, i. 43 r); his provisions against the dominance of faction5 which he , defined as a number of citizens, whether a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion or of interest (Federalist Papers, No. 10); and his insistence on a natural right to unequal property, which must be protected against democratic levelling propensities (ibid.). He cannot, therefore, be enlisted as a pre-nineteenthcentury liberal democrat. 7 . . . the right o f property is the most sacred of all the rights of citizen ship, and even more important in some respects than liberty itself. . . . property is the true foundation of civil society . Discourse on Political Economy (1758) in The Social Contract and Discourses (trans. G. D. H. Cole), Every mans Library, 1927, p. 271. 8 Bk. I, ch. 9, in ibid., p. 20.

Models and Precursors

17

general w ill, requires such an equality o f property that no citizen shall ever be w ealthy enough to buy another, and none poor enough to be forced to sell him self .9 T h e reference to buying and selling persons is apparently not a reference to slavery, for this principle is set out as a perm anent rule for citizens, i.e. free m e n : presumably, then, it is a prohibition o f the purchase and sale o f free wage labour. A gain, laws are always o f use to those who possess and harm ful to those who have nothing: from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all have something and none too m uch,10 Rousseaus reason for requiring such equality was clear enough. It followed directly from his insistence on the sover eignty o f the general will. For where differences o f property divide men into classes with opposed interests, men will be guided b y class interests, w hich are, vis-a-vis the whole society, particular interests; so they will be incapable o f expressing a general w ill for the common good. T h e emergence and steady operation o f the general will required a one-class society o f w orking proprietors. Such a society was to be achieved by governm ent action: T t is therefore one o f the most im portant functions o f governm ent to prevent extreme inequality o f for tunes; not by taking aw ay wealth from its possessors, but by depriving all men o f means to accum ulate it; not by building hospitals for the poor, but by securing the citizens from becom ing poor.11 W hen we turn to the theorist who is often accounted the first great Am erican proponent o f dem ocracy we find a similar, though less systematic, argument. Thom as Jefferson treated the common people as trustworthy to an extent unusual in most subsequent Presidents o f the U nited States. It would be unduly cynical to think that this was because he was w ith out the temptations afforded by modern techniques o f presi dential public relations. In any case, he m ade it clear, both in his public statements and his private letters, that his trust in the people was trust in the independent worker-proprietor,
9 Bk. II, ch. 11, in ibid., p. 45. 10 Bk. I, ch. 9, in ibid., p. 22, n. 1. 11 Discourse on Political Economy, in ibid., p. 267.

18

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

whom he saw as the backbone, and hoped would rem ain the backbone, o f Am erican society. In his most substantial published work, the Motes on Virginia (179 1), he was clear that his favourable estimate o f hum an nature was confined to those who had substantial economic independence: Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition . . . generally speaking, the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any State to that of its husbandmen, is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good enough barometer whereby to measure the degree of its corruption . . . The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body.12 T h e same principle is expressed in a letter to John Adam s in
1813:

Here everyone may have land to labor for himself, if he chooses; or, preferring the exercise of any other industry, may exact for it such compensation as not only to afford a comfortable subsistence, but wherewith to provide for a cessation from labor in old age. Every one, by his property or by his satisfactory situation, is interested in the. support of law and order. And such men may safely and advantageously reserve to themselves a wholesome control over their public affairs, and a degree of freedom, which, in the hands of the canaille of the cities of Europe, would be instantly perverted to the demolition and destruction of everything public and private.13 D em ocracy, for Jefferson, required a society in w hich everyone was independent econom ically. Reasoning from the A m erican situation, Jefferson did not require that everyone should be a worker-proprietor, but only that everyone could be one if he wished. H e had no objection to w age-labour, but only because, with free land available, wage-earners were as independent as husbandmen. N or did he object to some men, like himself, having substantial estates, provided that everyone else had, or could have, a small estate sufficient to make him independent. In the circumstances w hich Jefferson saw prevailing in A m eri ca, and w hich he considered prerequisite for dem ocracy any12 Notes on Virginia, Query X I X , in Saul K . Padover: The Complete Jefferson, New York, 1943, pp. 678-9. 13 Ibid., pp. 285-6.

Models and Precursors


where, there was, therefore, no fundam ental class division. He allowed the existence o f a wage-relation only because it did 'not, in those circumstances, make a class-divided society. " Jeffersons prerequisite for a dem ocracy was, like Rousseaus, a one-class society. ' It m ay be objected that the kind o f society envisaged by these pre-nineteenth-century dem ocratic writers as a pre requisite o f dem ocracy was not after all a one-class society, in that it would still leave women as a subordinate class, unable to own productive property in their own right. M oreover, as we have seen, the point emphasized by the dem ocratic oppo nents o f class-divided society was that any class w ithout pro ductive property was dependent on and exploited by the class w ith such property. It m ay well be argued that women were in just that position, and certainly the early dem ocratic writers were not conspicuous for taking any stand against it: Rousseau indeed thought that wom en ought to be kept dependent. W ere not these writers, then, assuming w hat must be called a classdivided society? I think not. For dow n to the nineteenth century women were com m only considered not full members o f society. T h ey were in, but not of, civil society. It would scarcely occur to a theorist, in describing or prescribing the class character o f a society, to treat them as a class. A n eighteenth-century demo crat could think o f a one-class society excluding women as easily as an ancient A thenian dem ocrat could think o f a oneclass society excluding slaves. N or can wom en be said to have been a class in any full sense. T ru e, in so far as w om en could not own property they meet our m inim um definition o f a class. A n d in so far as they were kept dependent and exploited they fit the underlying concept o f class as an exploited/exploiter relation. But there is a very great difference between the w ay they were exploited and the w ay the propertyless w orking class (who were also considered in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to be not full members o f civil society14) were exploited. T h e difference is I. think so great as to m ake it inappropriate to describe women as a class.
14 Cf. The Political Theory o f Possessive Individualism, pp. 221-9.

20

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

For from the seventeenth century on, as the capitalist market relation replaced feudal or other status relations as the means by w hich owners benefited from the w ork o f non-owners, it was understood that the only permissible arrangem ent for such benefit was the relation between free wage-earners and'owhers o f the capital w hich em ployed them. /The wage relation, a strictly m arket relation, becam e the criterion o f class. A nd in the eighteenth century, w hen Rousseau and Jefferson were stipulating a one-class society, and for some time after that, wom en were not a class by that criterion. T h ey were indeed exploited by the m ale-dom inated society, w hich made most o f them perform the function o f reproducing the labour force for no more reward than their subsistence. But they were made to do this by legal arrangements akin to a feudal (or even slave) relation, rather than b y a m arket relation. In so far as class was, and was seen to be, determ ined by the capitalist m arket relation, women as such were not, and would not be thought to be, a class. T h a t being so, writers who inveighed against class-divided society while not treating women as a class, were genuinely stipulating a one-class society. W e are therefore, I think, still entitled to refer to the pre-nineteenthcentury dem ocratic theorists as advocates o f a one-class (or classless) society. This brief survey o f models o f dem ocracy earlier than the nineteenth century is, I hope, sufficient to sustain my general ization that all o f them wfere fitted either to a classless or to a one-class society. A nd that is w hy I think that all o f the prenineteenth-century dem ocratic theories are better treated as being outside the liberal-dem ocratic tradition. T o be counted in that tradition a theory should surely be both dem ocratic and liberal. But w hat is usually, and I think rightly, considered to be the liberal tradition, stretching from Locke and the Encyclopedistes down to the present, has from the beginning included an acceptance o f the m arket freedoms o f a capitalist society. T h e patternis clear enough. T h e seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury liberals, who were not at all dem ocratic (from, say, Locke to Burke) fully accepted capitalist m arket relations. So did the early nineteenth-century liberal-dem ocrats, how

Models and Precursors

21

strongly in the cases o f Bentham and James M ill we shall see in C hapter II. T h en from about the middle o f the nineteenth century to the middle o f the twentieth, as we shall see in C hapter III, the liberal-dem ocratic thinkers tried to combine an acceptance o f the capitalist m arket society w ith a humanist ' ethical position. This produced a m odel of dem ocracy notably different from Bentham s, but still including acceptance o f the m arket society. Since the liberal com ponent o f liberal dem o cracy has pretty constantly included acceptance o f capitalist relations and hence o f class-divided society, it seems appro priate that the pre-nineteenth-century dem ocratic theories, all o f w hich rejected the class-divided society, should be placed outside the liberal-dem ocratic category. T h e y were, so to speak, handicraft models o f dem ocracy, and as such are best considered as precursors o f liberal dem ocracy. I f this is thought to be still a somewhat arbitrary division, I shall not insist. T h e im portant thing is not the classification, but the recognition o f how deeply the m arket assumptions about the nature o f m an and society have penetrated liberaldem ocratic theory. T h e reader m ay wonder w hether the grounds offered for this classification do not comm it the author to the proposition that liberal dem ocracy must always em brace the capitalist market society with its class-di vision. I f liberal has always m eant that, or at least has always included that, should it con tinue to be used only w ith that m eaning? Is it not then incon sistent to go on to inquire, as I do in C hapter V , into the prospects o f a dem ocratic theory w hich downgrades or aban dons the m arket assumptions, and to treat this as an inquiry into a possible future m odel o f liberal dem ocracy? I do not think any o f these questions are to be answered in the affirm ative. I would argue that the reason liberal did m ean acceptance o f the capitalist m arket society, during the form ative century o f liberal dem ocracy, does not apply any longer. Liberalism had always m eant freeing the individual from the outdated restraints o f old established institutions. By the time liberalism emerged as liberal dem ocracy this became a claim to free all individuals equally, and to free them to use and develop their hum an capacities fully. But so long as there

22

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

was an econom y o f scarcity, it still seemed to the liberal dem o crat that the only w ay to that goal was through the productivity o f free-enterprise capitalism. W hether this was in fact the only w ay as late as the early twentieth century m ay be doubted, but there is no doubt that the leading liberal democrats thought it to be so ; and as long as they did, they had to accept the linkage o f m arket society w ith liberal-dem ocratic ends. But this linkage is.no longer necessary. It is no longer necessary, that is to say, i f w e assume that we have now reached a techno logical level o f productivity w hich makes possible a good life for everybody without depending on capitalist incentives. T h a t assumption m ay o f course be challenged. But if it is denied, then there seems no possibility o f any new model o f dem ocratic society, and no point in discussing such a model under any designation, liberal or otherwise. I f the assumption is granted, the previously necessary linkage is no longer neces sary, and a new model not based on the capitalist m arket m ay properly be considered under the heading lib eral-d em ocratic5 . In the following chapters I shall exam ine three successive models o f liberal dem ocracy that m ay be said to have prevailed in turn from the early nineteenth century to the present, and shall go on to consider the prospects o f a fourth. T h e first model I call Protective Democracy: its case for the dem ocratic system o f governm ent was that nothing less could in principle protect the governed from oppression by the governm ent. T h e second is called Developmental Democracy: it brought in a new moral dimension, seeing dem ocracy prim arily as a means of individual self-development. T h e third, Equilibrium Democracy, abandoned the m oral claim , on the ground that experience o f tlie actual operation o f dem ocratic systems had shown that the developm ental model was quite unrealistic: the equilibrium ' theorists offered instead a description (and justification) o f dem ocracy as a com petition betw een elites w hich produces equilibrium w ithout m uch popular participation. This is the presently prevalent model. Its inadequacy is becom ing increas ingly apparent, and the possibility o f replacing it w ith some thing more participatory has become a lively and serious issue. So this study goes on to consider the prospects and problems o f a fourth model, Participatory Democracy.

II
Model i: Protective Democracy

THE

BREAK

IN T H E

DEMOCRATIC

TRADITION

W hatever m ay be thought o f Tennysons lines about freedom slowly broadening dow n from precedent to precedent, it is clear that this is not the w ay we reached our present liberal democracies. It is true that in the present liberal dem ocracies the universal franchise did generally come by stages, start ing from a restrictive property qualification, m oving at dif ferent speeds in different countries to manhood suffrage, and finally including wom en suffrage. But before this expan sion o f the franchise had begun at all, the institutions and id e o lo g y . o f liberal individualism were firm ly established. T h e only apparent exceptions to this rule were no exceptions. Some European countries, notably France, did have manhood franchise before the liberal m arket society had fully established itself there. But since the assemblies elected by that franchise did not have the power to m ake or unmake governments, the arrangements cannot be deem ed dem ocratic: the extent o f the franchise is a measure o f dem ocratic governm ent only in so far as the exercise o f the franchise can make and unmake govern ments. So we m ay say that by the time the m ovem ent for a fully dem ocratic franchise had gathered m omentum anywhere, the concept o f dem ocracy w hich that franchise was to em body was very different from any o f the earlier visions o f dem ocracy. T hus there is a sharp break in the path from pre-liberal to liberal dem ocracy. A fresh start was made in the nineteenth century, from a v6ry different base. T h e earlier concepts o f dem ocracy, as w e have seen, had rejected class division, believ ing or hoping that it could be transcended, or even assuming

24

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

that in some places Rousseaus G eneva or Jeffersons A m erica it had been transcended. Liberal dem ocracy, on the con trary, accepted class division, and built on it. T h e first formulators o f liberal dem ocracy cam e to its advocacy through a chain o f reasoning w hich started from the assumptions o f a capitalist m arket society and the laws o f classical political econom y. These gave them a model o f m an (as m axim izer o f "utilities) and a model o f society (as a collection o f individuals w ith conflicting interests). From those models, and one ethical principle, they deduced the need for governm ent, the desirable functions o f governm ent, and hence the desirable system o f choosing and authorizing governments. T o see how deeply their models o f m an and society got into their general theory, and hence into their model o f liberal dem ocracy as the best form o f governm ent, we shall do well to look more closely than is usually done at the theories o f the two earliest systematic exponents o f liberal dem ocracy, Jerem y Bentham and Jam es M ill.1 W e m ay start w ith Bentham , the original systematizer o f the theory that cam e to be known as U tilitarianism , and bring in Jam es M ill when, as sometimes happened, he stated the U tilitarian case more clearly than Bentham , or when his reser vations and am biguities were different from Bentham s. James M ill was a thorough disciple o f Bentham , and a m uch more disciplined writer, so he often put the Bentham ite case more strikingly than the master himself. A n d by the time Bentham
1 James M ills model can be dated precisely at 1820, in his famous article on Government. Benthams may be dated 1820 (see p. 35, n. 22) or 1818, when he produced the twenty-six Resolutions on Parliamentary Reform, which would admit to the franchise all such persons as, being of the male sex, of mature age, and of sound mind, shall . . . have been resident either as householders or inmates, within the district or place in which they are called upon to vote*. (Works, ed. Bowring, Edinburgh and London, 1843, x. 497.) Others, indeed, had advocated equal manhood suffrage somewhat earlier, notably Major John Cartwright, as early as 1776, in his Take Your Choice /, and Cobbett in his Political Register. But neither of them can be said to have set up a fully reasoned model, and such theoretical grounds as they did offer were backward-looking: their appeal was to the natural rights of freeborn Englishmen (before the restrictions of the franchise by 8 Henry V I, c. 7); and there was no awareness of the changed class structure or of the significance of the new industrial working class.

Model 1:

Protective Democracy

25

} |

p ut his mind to the question o f the best form o f governm ent, their minds ran in parallel, and they were in close touch with each other. So it will do no injustice to either to treat them almost as a unit. It must be said that w ith Bentham and Jam es M ill liberal dem ocracy got o ff to a poor start. It is not that they were in com petent theorists. O n the contrary, Bentham becam e de servedly famous as a thinker, and the most influential doctrine o f the English nineteenth century was nam ed after him. And Jam es M ill, though not o f the very first rank, was a clear and forceful writer. A nd the general theory o f Utilitarianism , from w hich they both deduced the need for a dem ocratic franchise, seemed both fundam entally egalitarian and thoroughly busi nesslike. It was both, and that was the trouble. I shall suggest that it was the com bination o f an ethical principle o f equality w ith a com petitive m arket model o f man and society that logically required both thinkers to conclude in favour o f a dem ocratic franchise, but m ade them do so either am biguously or w ith reservations.
THE UTILITARIAN BASE

j !

i j | j ) ! j I
]

T h e general theory was clear enough. T h e only rationally defensible criterion o f social good was the greatest happiness o f the greatest num ber, happiness being defined as the amount o f individual pleasure minus pain. In calculating the aggregate net happiness o f a whole society, each individual was to count as one. W hat could be more egalitarian than that as a funda m ental ethical principle? B ut to it were added certain factual postulates. Every individual by his very nature seeks to m axim ize his own pleasure w ithout lim it. A n d although Bentham set out a long list o f kinds o f pleasure, including m any non-m aterial ones, he was clear that the possession o f m aterial goods was so basic to the attainm ent o f all other satisfactions that it alone could be taken as the measure o f them all. Each portion o f w ealth has a corresponding portion o f happiness. 2 A nd again: M oney is
2 Principles o f the Civil Code, Part I, ch. 6, in Bentham: The Theory o f Legislation, ed. C. K . Ogden, London, 1931, p. 103. (I have preferred this

i 1

&

B o q a z ic i U m v e r s it e s i K u tu p h a n e s t < >

26

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

the instrum ent o f measuring' the quantity o f pain or pleasure. Those who are not satisfied w ith the accuracy o f this instru ment must find out some other that shall be more accurate, or bid adieu to politics and m orals. 3 So each seeks to m axim ize Ms own w ealth withoutTimit. O ne w ay o f doing this is to get power over others. Between wealth and power, the connexion is most close and intim ate; so inti mate, indeed, that the disentanglement o f them, even in the im agination, is a m atter o f no small difficulty. T h e y are each o f them respectively an instrum ent o f production w ith relation to the other, 4 A nd again, hum an beings are the most powerful instruments o f production, and therefore everyone becomes anxious to em ploy the services o f his fellows in m ultiplying his own comforts. H ence the intense and universal thirst for power; the equally prevalent hatred o f subjection. 5 Jam es M ill was even more forthright. In his 1820 article Government, he wrote: That one human being will desire to render the person and prop erty of another subservient to his pleasures, notwithstanding the pain or loss of pleasure which it may occasion to that other indivi dual, is the foundation of government. The desire of the object implies the desire of the power necessary to accomplish the object. The desire, therefore, of that power which is necessary to render the persons and properties of human beings subservient to our pleasures is a grand governing law of human nature . . . The grand instru ment for attaining what a man likes is the actions of other men. Power . . . therefore, means security for the conformity between the will of one man and the acts of other men. This, we presume, is not a proposition which will be disputed.6 W ith this grand governing law o f hum an nature, society j s a collection o f individuals incessantly seeking power over and at the expense o f each other. T o keep such a society from flying apart, a structure o f law both civil and crim inal was seen to be
edition to the version printed in the Bentham Works edited by Bowring, vol. i.) O n the abstraction from reality required to assert this proposition, see below, p. 30, at n. 12. 3 W. Stark (ed.) : Jeremy Benthanis Economic Writings, i. 117. 4 Constitutional Code, Bk. 1, ch. 9, in Works, ed. Bowring, ix. 48. 5 Stark (ed.): iii. 430. e Section I V (p. 17 of the Barker edition, Cambridge, 1937).

Model i:

Protective Democracy

27

needed. V arious structures o fla w m ight be capable o f provid ing the necessary order, but, o f course, according to the U tilitarian ethical principle, the best set o f laws, the best dis tribution o f rights and obligations, was that w hich would pro duce the greatest happiness o f the greatest number. This most general end o f the laws could, Bentham said, be divided into four subordinate ends: to provide subsistence; to produce abundance; to favour equality; to m aintain security.5 7

b e n t h a m

s E ND S O F L E G I S L A T I O N

Bentham s arguments as to how each o f these ends could be achieved (and how not) are revealing. Together they am ount to a case for a system o f unlim ited private property and capitalist enterprise, and this apparently deduced from the factual postulates about hum an nature and a few others. Let us look in turn at his arguments under each head. Ju rst, subsistence. T h e law need do nothing to ensure that enough w ill be produced to provide subsistence for everyone. W hat can the law do for subsistence? Nothing directly. All it can do is to create motives, that is, punishments or rewards, by the force of which men may be led to provide subsistence for themselves. But nature herself has created these motives, and has given them a sufficient energy. Before the idea of laws existed, needs and enjoyments had done in that respect all that the best concerted laws could do. Need, armed with pains of all kinds, even death itself, commanded labour, excited courage, inspired foresight, developed all the facul ties of man. Enjoyment, the inseparable companion of every need satisfied, formed an inexhaustible fund of rewards for those who surmounted obstacles and fulfilled the end of nature. The force of the physical sanction being sufficient, the employment of the politi cal sanction would be superfluous.8 W hat the laws can do is to provide for subsistence indirectly, by protecting men while they labour, and by m aking them sure o f the fruits o f their labour. Security for the labourer, security for the fruits o f labour; such is the benefit o f law s; and it is an inestim able benefit.9
7 Principles o f the Civil Code, Part I, ch. 2; Ogden (ed.): op. cit., p. 96. 8 Ibid., Part I, ch. 4; Ogden, p. 100. 9 Ibid.

28

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

T h e curious point here is that Bentham, in invoking fear o f starvation as a natural incentive to the productive labour w hich w ould provide subsistence for everybody, has slipped from thinking o f a prim itive society (before the idea o f laws existed5 where fear o f starvation w ould have that effect on ), everybody, to an advanced nineteenth-century industrial society, where that does not apply w ithout an additional pro viso. In a prim itive society with such a low level o f productive technique that the incessant labour o f all was needed (and was seen by all to be needed) to avoid general starvation, the fear o f starvation would be a sufficient incentive to the productive labour that would produce subsistence for all. But in a society whose productive techniques are sufficient to provide subsist ence for everyone w ithout such incessant labour by everyone, like England in Bentham 5 time, fear o f starvation is not in s itself a sufficient incentive. In such a society, fear o f starvation will be an incentive to incessant labour only where the institu tions o f property have created a class who have no property in land or working capital, and no claims on society for their support, and hence must sell their labour or starve. So keen a thinker as Bentham could scarcely have failed to see this, had he not been taking for granted the existence o f such a class as inevitable in any econom ically advanced society. A nd we know the he did assume this: T n the highest state o f social prosperity, the great mass o f citizens w ill have no re source except their daily industry; and consequently will be always near indigence,10 A lready we can see the teachings o f classical political econom y subverting the egalitarian principle, A similar shift takes place in his argum ent about abun dance5 Here he seems to slip from thinking o f a society o f . independent producers to thinking o f his own advanced society, applying to the latter a generalization about incentives appar ently drawn from the former. No legislation, he says, is needed to encourage individuals to produce abundance o f m aterial goods. N atural incentives are enough, because everyone's desire is infinite. Each w ant satisfied produces a new want. So there is a strong and perm anent incentive to produce more.
10 Ibid., Part I, ch. 14; Ogden, p. 127.

Model 1:

Protective Democracy

29

Bentham does not notice that this incentive, which m ay prop erly enough be postulated o f the capitalist entrepreneur and possibly o f the self-em ployed independent producer, cannot very well apply to the wage-earners, who are always near indigence5 H e does not see this, because he has created his model . o f m an in the im age o f the entrepreneur or the independent producer. H e could do that because he had no historical sense. It is only w hen we come to his argum ent under the heads o f equality and security that we can see the full extent to which his acceptance o f capitalism underm ined his egalitarian ethical principle. T h e case for 'equ ality5 that is, for everyone having , the same am ount o f w ealth or income, is set out clearly. It rests on w hat cam e to be known as the law o f dim inishing utility, w hich point's out that successive increments o f w ealth (or o f any m aterial goods) bring successively less satisfaction to their holder, or, that av person w ith ten or a hundred times the wealth o f another has m uch less than ten or a hundred times as much pleasure. G iven that all individuals have the same capacity for pleasure, and that each portion o f w ealth has a corresponding portion o f happiness5 it follows that he who has the most , w ealth has the most happiness5, but also that the excess in happiness o f the richer w ill not be so great as the excess o f his w ealth 5 From this it follows that aggregate happiness w ill be .11 greater the more nearly the distribution o f w ealth approaches equality: m axim um aggregate happiness requires that all individuals have equal wealth. This case for equality requires, as we have noticed, an assumption o f equal capacities for pleasure. For if some were assumed to have a greater capacity for pleasure, i.e. a greater sensitivity or sensibility, it could be argued that aggregate happiness w ould be m axim ized by their having more w ealth than the others. Bentham was not very consistent about this. H e prefaced the dim inishing returns5 argum ent for equality by setting aside the particular sensibility o f individuals, and . . . the exterior circumstances in w hich they m ay be placed5. These must be set aside, he said, because they are never the same for two individuals5, so that, without setting those differ ences aside, it will be impossible to announce any general
11 Ibid., Part I, ch. 6; Ogden, p. 103.

30

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

proposition .12 Y e t elsewhere he pointed out that, besides par ticular individual differences in sensibility, there were differ-? ences between whole categories o f individuals. T h ere was a difference in sensibility as between the sexes: T n point o f quantity, the sensibility o f the female sex appears in general to be greater than that o f the m ale.13 A nd, o f more direct im portance in an argum ent that depends on a relation b e tween pleasure and wealth, Bentham saw a difference in sensibility between those o f different station, or rank in life : Caeteris paribus, the quantum o f sensibility appears to be greater in the higher ranks o f m en than in the low er.14 I f Bentham had acknowledged such a property-class differential when m aking his case for equality o f w ealth, his case would have been destroyed: he would have been endorsing the position o f Edm und Burke. Perhaps he was. Perhaps he saw no need to m ention that differential when stating his case for equality because he had already decided that the claims o f equality were entirely subordinate to the claims o f security. In any case, having said this m uch under the head o f equality , Bentham turned to security , that is, security o f property and o f expectation o f return from the use o f ones labour and property. W ithout security o f property in the fruits o f ones labour, Bentham says, civilization is impossible. No one would form au y plan o f life or undertake any labour the product o f w hich he could not im m ediately take and use. N ot even simple cultivation o f the land w ould be undertaken i f one could not be sure that the harvest would be ones own. T h e laws, therefore, must secure individual property. A nd since men differ in ability and energy, some w ill get more property than others. A n y attem pt by the law to reduce them to equality would destroy the incentive to productivity. Hence, as between equality and security, the law must have no hesita tion: E quality must yield .15 T h e argum ent is persuasive, though invalid. T ru e, if one
12 Ibid. 13 Introduction to the Principles o f Morals and Legislation, ch. 6, in Collected Works, London, 1970, p. 64. Ibid., p. 65. 15 Principles o f the Civil Code, Part I, ch. 11; Ogden, p. 120.

Model 1:

Protective Democracy

31

accepts Bentham s premiss that every individual by his very nature seeks to m axim ize his pleasure, and hence his m aterial goods, without lim it, and at the expense o f others, it does follow that security for the fruits o f ones labour is needed to convert the search for gain into an incentive to produce. But it does not follow, as Bentham argued,, that no society above savagery is possible, w ithout that security, .unless security for the fruits o f ones labour is stretched to include the security o f subsistence enjoyed by the slaves in ancient high civilizations. Forced labour, w hether in the form o f slavery or in any other form, is quite capable o f sustaining a high level o f civilization; and on Bentham s own premiss that everyone seeks power over others because hum an beings are the most powerful instru ments o f production, he could scarcely rule this out as un natural. In fact, as we shall see in a moment, rather than ruling it out he endorses it. H owever, if he had been content to lim it his case for security o f property to the case for security for the fruits o f ones labour, he w ould have had a fairly effective case. But he was not con tent w ith that. H e m ade another o f his unconscious shifts. He w ent on to a very different proposition: that security o f any existing kind o f established property, including that which could not possibly be the fruits o f ones own labour, must be guaranteed. In consulting the grand principle of security what ought the legislator to decree respecting the mass of property already existing? He ought to maintain the distribution as it is actually established. , . . . There is nothing more different than the state of property in America, in England, in Hungary, and in Russia. Generally, in the first of these countries, the cultivator is a proprietor; in the second, a tenant; in the third, attached to the glebe; in the fourth, a slave. However, the supreme principle of security commands the preser vation o f all these distributions, though their nature is so different, and though they do not produce the same sum of happiness.16 Bentham s supporting argum ent demonstrates again his lack o f historical sense. His contention is, that to overturn any exist ing system o f property is to make impossible any other system
16 Ibid., Part I, ch. 1 1 ; Ogden, p. 1 19.

32

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

o f property. It does not need a profound knowledge o f history to see that this is not so. For instance, the destruction o f the feudal system o f property led to the establishment o f an equally firm capitalist system of p ro p erty; and the same m ight be said o f m any previous overthrows o f an existing system. I f Bentham s unhistorical postulate had been true, he would have been logically entitled to .conclude that every established system must be m aintained, even where it did not produce the same sum o f happiness ; for the overturning o f any system w ould then be worse, by the greatest happiness criterion, than any possible benefit from another system. But the postulate is not valid. So -his dem onstration that security has absolute priority over equality is not valid. It m ight be thought that Bentham could have established his case o f the security o f any established system o f property, including those w hich m aintained an extrem ely unequal distribution o f wealth, w ithout relying on his unhistorical pos tulate but simply by invoking another principle w hich he an nounced in the chapter on equality. This is the principle that men in general appear to be more sensitive to pain than to pleasure, even when the cause is equal. To such a degree, indeed, does this extend, that a loss which diminishes a mans fortune by one-fourth, will take away more happiness than he could gain by doubling his property.17 But Bentham saw that this alone did not justify the m ainten ance o f great inequality. A ll he concluded from this was that, as between two persons o f equal w ealth, a redistribution would m ean a net loss o f happiness. Fie could have shown further, that as between two persons one o f whom started with four times the w ealth o f another, a redistribution o f a quarter o f A s w ealth to B, w hich would double B s wealth, would still m ean some net loss o f happiness. But if A started with say,'tw elve, times the w ealth o f B, a redistribution o f a quarter o f A s wealth would quadruple B s w ealth, w hich presum ably would m ean a net gain in happiness. Bentham recognized this. His w ay o f putting it was to say that in such a case the evil done b y an attack on security w ill be compensated in part by a good which
17 Ibid., Part I, ch. 6; Ogden, p. io8.

Model v:

Protective Democracy

33

will be great in proportion to the progress towards equality .18 So he needed an independent argum ent to make his case for the absolute priority o f security over equality. A nd the inde pendent argum ent was, as we have seen, based on the invalid historical postulate. From Bentham-s whole treatm ent o f the four subordinate ends o f legislation, and from his preceding factual postulates, it is clear, then, how deeply his general theory was penetrated by bourgeois assumptions. First we have the general postulates: that every person always acts to secure his own interest, to m axim ize his own pleasure or utility, w ithout lim it; and that this conflicts w ith everyone elses interest. T h en the search for the m axim um pleasure is reduced to the search for m axim um m aterial goods and/or power over others. T h en, postulates draw n from his contem porary capitalist society are presented as universally v a lid : that the great mass o f m en will never rise above a bare subsistence level; that for them fear o f starvation rather than hope o f gain is the operative incentive to labour; that, for the more fortunate, hope o f gain is a sufficient incen tive to m axim um productivity; that, for this hope to operate as an incentive, there must be absolute security o f property. Fin ally, w e have security o f property elevated to a supreme prin ciple absolutely overriding the principle o f equality. T h e ultim ate reason Bentham saw no contradiction here, m e reason underlying his unhistorical postulate, is, I suggest, that he was really concerned only w ith the rationale o f the capitalist m arket society. In that society indeed, at least accord in g to his version o f classical political economy, there appeared to be no such contradiction: security o f unlim ited individual appropriation was the very thing which, along w ith unlimited desire, w ould induce the m axim um productivity o f the whole system. But to say that security o f property, while perpetuating inequality, m aximizes productivity, is not to say that it m axi mizes aggregate pleasure or utility. Bentham has again shifted his ground, now from aggregate utility to aggregate wealth. But these are different. T h e shift is illegitim ate because, by his own principle o f dim inishing utility, a smaller national wealth, equally distributed, could yield a larger aggregate u tility than
is Ibid.

34

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

a larger national w ealth unequally distributed. B ut Bentham was so im bued w ith the ethos o f capitalism, w hich is for m axi m ization o f w ealth and sees it as equivalent to m axim ization o f utility, that he did not adm it their difference.

THE

POLITICAL

REQUIREMENT

For this kind o f society, w hat kind o f state was needed? T h e political problem was to find a system o f choosing arid author izin g governm ents, that is, sets oflaw-m akers and law-enforcers, who would m ake and enforce the kind o f laws needed by such a society. It was a double p roblem : the political system should both produce governments w hich would establish and nurture a free m arket society and protect the citizens from rapacious governm ents (for by the grand governing principle o f hum an nature every governm ent w ould be rapacious unless it were m ade in its own interest not to be so, or impossible for it to be so). T h e crucial point in the solution o f this double problem turned out to be the extent o f the franchise, along w ith certain devices such as the secret ballot, frequent elections, and freedom o f the press, w hich w ould make the vote a free and effective expression o f the voters wishes. T h e extent and genu ineness o f the franchise becam e the central question because, by the early nineteenth century in England, theorists were able to take for granted the rest o f the fram ework o f representative governm ent: the constitutional provisions w hereby legislatures and executives w ere periodically chosen, and therefore periodically replaceable, by the voters at general elections, and w hereby the civil service (and the m ilitary) were subordinate to a governm ent thus responsible to the electorate. So the m odel which the nineteenth-century thinkers started from w a s ' a system o f representative and responsible governm ent o f this, kind. T h e question that was left for them was, w hat provisions for the extent and genuineness o f the franchise w ould both produce governm ents w hich would promote a free m arket society and protect the citizens from the governm ent. I f only the first o f these requirements had been seen as a problem , something far short o f a dem ocratic franchise w ould

Model 1:

Protective Democracy

35

have been sufficient. Indeed, something far short o f that satis fied Bentham for two decades after he began to think about political systems. In a w ork written between 1791 and 1802 he was for a lim ited franchise, excluding the poor, the unedu cated, the dependent, and wom en,19 In 1809 he w as'advocat ing a householder franchise, one lim ited to those paying direct taxes on property.20 By 1817 he was talking about a virtually universal franchise, excluding only those under age and those unable to read, and possibly excluding wom en (to give a decided opinion on that would be altogether prem ature in this p lace ) ; but in that same w ork he said that while he had become convinced o f the safeness o f the principle o f universal suffrage, he was also convinced o f the ease and consistency w ith which, for the sake o f union and concord, m any exclusions m ight be m ade, at any rate for a tim e and for the sake o f quiet and gradual experience. 21 By 1820 he was for m anhood fran chise; but even then he said that he w ould gladly support the more lim ited householder franchise except that he could not see'that this could .satisfy those excluded, who would perhaps constitute a m ajority o f m ale adults .22 So Bentham was not enthusiastic about a dem ocratic franchise: he was pushed to it, p artly by his appraisal o f w hat the people by then would dem and, and partly by the sheer requirements o f logic as soon as he turned his mind to the constitutional question. E very body o f men [including whatever body has the power to legislate and to govern] is governed altogether by its con ception o f w hat is its interest, in the narrowest and most selfish -" sense o f the w ord interest: never b y any regard for the interest .o f others. 23 T h e only w ay to prevent the governm ent despoitfing all the rest o f the people is to m ake the governors frequently ?rem ovable b y the m ajority o f all the people. T h e powers o f governm ent in the hands o f any set o f people other than those chosen and rem ovable by the votes o f the greatest num ber

1 Principles o f Legislation, ch. 13, sect. 9; in Ogden (ed.): The Theory o f 9 Legislation, p. 81. 20 Plan o f Parliamentary Reform, 1818 edn., pp. 40 n. and 127. 21 Ibid., pp. 3 5-7 and 41 n. 22 Radicalism N ot Dangerous, in Works, ed. Bowring, iii. 599. 23 Constitutional Code, in Works, ed. Bowring, ix. 10a.

36

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

w ould be necessarily directed to the giving every possible increase to their own happiness, w hatever becam e o f the happi ness o f others. A nd in proportion as their happiness received increase w ould the aggregate happiness o f all the governed be dim inished. 24 Happiness is a zero-sum gam e: the more the governors have, the less the governed have. T h e case for a dem ocratic system is purely the protective case: w ith the single exception o f an ap tly organized dem o cracy, the ruling and influential few are enemies o f the subject m a n y : . . . and by the very nature o f m an . . . perpetual and unchangeable enem ies. 25 A democracy, then, has for its characteristic object and effect, the securing its members against oppression and depredation at the hands of those functionaries which it employs for its defence . . . Every other species of government has necessarily, for its charac teristic and primary object and effect, the keeping the people or non-functionaries in a perfectly defenceless state, against the func tionaries their rulers; who being, in respect of their power and the use they are disposed and enabled to make of it, the natural ad versaries of the people, have for their object the giving facility, cer tainty, unbounded extent and impunity, to the depredation and oppression exercised on the governed by their governors,2 6 But while logical deduction from the nature o f hum an beings gave an irrefutable case for a dem ocratic constitution, Bentham was ready to compromise it on grounds o f expediency. His final position on female suffrage is a clear exam ple. T h e case for universal franchise required that women, equally w ith men, should have the vote. Indeed, Bentham argued that, to com pensate for their natural handicaps, wom en were if anything' entitled to more votes than men. Nevertheless, he held that there is now such a general presupposition against female suffrage that he could not recom m end i t : the contest and con fusion produced by the proposal o f this im provem ent w ould entirely engross the public mind, and throw im provem ent, in all other shapes, to a distance. 27
2 Ibid., 4 25 Ibid., 2 Ibid., 6 2 Ibid., 7 p. p. p. p. 95. 143. 47. 109.

Model 1:

Protective Democracy

37

So we have Bentham s whole position on the dem ocratic franchise. H e would be h appy w ith a limited franchise but was w illing to concede m anhood franchise. In principle he even m ade a case for universal franchise, but held that the time was not ripe for it: to advocate votes for wom en now w ould en danger the chances o f any parliam entary reform. A nd we should notice that he moved to the principle o f the dem ocratic franchise only when he had become persuaded that the poor w ould not use their votes to level or destroy property. T he poor, he argued, have more to gain by m aintaining the institu tion o f property than by destroying it, and as evidence he pointed to the fact that in the U nited States those without property sufficient for their m aintenance5 had, for upwards o f ' fifty years, had the property o f the w ealthy w ithin the compass o f their legal pow er and had never infringed property.28

J A ME S M I L L S S E E S A W

It was Jam es M ill who, in 1820, m ade the most powerful case for universal franchise, and even that was so guarded and put in such hypothetical terms that it can be read, and often has been read, as a case for a m uch less than universal franchise.29 But though he hedged his conclusions, his argum ent Jeads irresistibly to universal franchise. The4 m ain argum ent is , bolder than Bentham s but essentially similar. It starts w ith the assertion o f w hat is surely the most extreme postulate about self-interest ever m ade, before or since that grand governing law o f hum an nature that we have already seen. From this it followed that those who had no political power would be oppressed by those who did have it. T h e vote was political power, or at least the lack o f the vote was lack o f political | power. Therefore everyone needed the vote, for self-protection, | N othing short o f one person, one vote could in principle/ protect all the citizens from the governm ent.
2 Ibid., p. 143. 8 2 The various readings are discussed by Joseph Hamburger: James 9 M ill on Universal Suffrage and the Middle Class, Journal o f Politics (1962), vol. 24, pp. 167-90; and in Hamburger: Intellectuals in Politics, John Stuart M i l l and the Philosophic Radicals, New Haven and London, 1965, pp. 48-53.

38

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

But it cannot be said that Jam es M ill was enthusiastic about dem ocracy, any m ore than was Bentham . For in the same article on Government in w hich he made the case for a universal franchise, Jam es M ill used considerable ingenuity in enquiring whether any narrower franchise could give the same security to every citizens interest as would universal franchise, and he argued that it w ould be safe to exclude all women, all men under the age o f 40, and the poorest one-third o f the males over 40. T h e argum ent is almost unbelievably crude. His general principle was that all those individuals whose interests are indisputably included in those o f other individuals m ay be struck o ff w ithout inconvenience .30 T h a t seems fair enough, but his applications o f the principle were brusque and over bearing. In the first place, M ill held, this took care o f women, the interest o f almost all o f whom is involved either in that o f their fathers or in that o f their husbands .31 It also permitted the exclusion o f all males under some assigned age, about w hich age considerable latitude m ay be taken w ithout incon venience. Suppose the age o f forty were prescribed . scarcely . any laws could be made for the benefit o f all the men o f forty w hich w ould not be laws for the benefit o f all the rest o f the com m unity.5 A n d the great m ajority o f old men have sons, whose interest they regard as part o f their own. T h is is a law o f hum an nature. There is, therefore, no great danger that, in such an arrangem ent as this, the interests o f the young w ould be greatly sacrificed to those o f the old, 32 (M ill was 47 in 1820.) W hen it cam e to the question o f an allow able property or incom e qualification, M ill did not even try to apply his princi ple o f included interests. T h e question M ill posed was whether, somewhere betw een a qualification so low as to be o f no use and one so high as to constitute an undesirable aristocracy o f wealth, there is one which w ould remove the right o f Suffrage from the people o f small, or o f no property, and yet constitute an elective body, the interest o f w hich would be identical with
30 An Essay on Government, ed.. E. Barker, Cambridge, 1937, p. 45. 31 Ibid., p. 45. 32 Ibid., pp. 46-7.

Model i :

Protective Democracy

39

that o f the com m unity? 83 A lth ou gh this is posed as a question o f identity o f interests, the answer is in terms o f a calculation o f opposed interests. M ills answer is that a property qualification high enough to exclude up to one-third o f the people (presum ably one-third o f the males over 40) would be safe, because each o f the top two-thirds, who would have the vote, and who would o f course have an interest in oppressing the excluded one-third, w ould have only one-half the benefit o f oppressing a single m an. In that case, the benefits o f good G overnm ent, accruing to all, m ight be expected to overbalance to the several members o f such an elective body the benefits o f misrule peculiar to themselves. G ood Governm ent would, therefore, have a tolerable security. 34 By the same token, a property qualification w hich excluded more than h alf o f the people was undesirable, for it would m ean that each voter would have a benefit equal to that derived from the oppression o f more than one m an :35 this benefit would be irresistible, so that bad governm ent w ould be ensured. W e can scarcely avoid asking w hy James M ill, after m aking his strong positive case for universal suffrage, should have raised the question o f exclusions at all, let alone piling up allow able exclusions to such an extraordinary height as he did: o f the adult population, some ten-twelfths were exclud able (one-half by sex; a t least h a lf the rest by age; o f the rem aining quarter, one-third by property). T o say the least, this does give grounds for considering M ill less than a whole hearted dem ocrat. W h y did he do it, and especially w hy did he adm it a property qualification? A nd w hy, having done this, did he conclude his argum ent by reverting to his case for universal franchise, and say that it would not be dangerous because the vast m ajority o f the lower class would always be guided by the m iddle class? M ills allow ing such exclusions m ay be due to the fact that he, like Bentham , was prim arily interested in an electoral re form w hich w ould undermine the dom inant sinister interest o f the narrow landed and moneyed class w hich was in full control
83 Ibid., p. 49. 34 Ibid., p. 50. 35 Ibid., p. 50.

40

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

before the 1832 Reform Bill. A b o u t this he was m uch more o f an activist than B en th am : he was not above trying, w ith some success, to frighten the oligarchy into granting the 1832 Reform (which was far short o f m anhood suffrage), by holding out the likelihood o f a popular revolution i f such reform were not granted, though it is doubtful if he him self believed in the likelihood o f such revolutionary action.36 But he was very m uch aware o f the im portance o f getting both working-class and middle-class support for such reform : he was convinced o f the im portance o f public opinion, including the opinion o f both those classes. In pressing for reform, therefore, he must avoid offending either class. N ow M ill w ould not offend either class b y perm itting the exclusion o f w o m e n : as Bentham at least believed, p robably quite correctly, public opinion was far from ready to adm it women to the franchise. T h e notion o f excluding all m en under the age o f 40 was so palpably absurd that it would not offend anybody. O ne m ight indeed argue that such an exclusion would reduce the num ber o f working-class voters more than in proportion to the well-to-do, in view o f the smaller proportion o f the poor who reached the age o f 40, but this point does not seem to have been taken up by M ills critics: M acau lay, m uch his most exhaustive critic, did draw attention to the incom petence o f M ills case for excluding w om en,37 but m ade no reference to the case for excluding the under-forties: presum ably he thought it be neath notice. T h e only difficult decision for M ill was w hat to say about a property qualification. T o advocate full m anhood suffrage w ith no property qualification would frighten m uch middleclass opinion; to advocate a property qualification w hich would exclude a substantial part o f the w orking class w ould be to lose their support. So M ill found him self in a position which is, oddly enough, parallel to that w hich he attributed to the
3 Cf. J oseph H am burger:James M ill and the Art o f Revolution, New Haven > 6 1963, especially ch. 3, 37 Macaulay: M ills Essay on Government, Edinburgh Review, March 2829, reprinted in The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches o f Lord Macaulay, London, Longmans, Green, 1889 (Popular Edition), p. 174.

Model 1:

Protective Democracy

41

spokesmen o f w hat he called the opposition party o f the ruling class, and he took the same w ay out. In an article in the first number o f the radical Westminster Review (January 1824) on Periodical L iterature , M ill launched an abrasive attack on the Edinburgh Review, which he said spoke for the anti-M inisterial w ing o f the ruling class. The dilem m a o f that party, he said, was that, in order to discredit the M inistry so as to get themselves in, they needed to enlist non-ruling-class opinion, since that opinion did operate upon the ruling class partly by contagion, partly by conviction, partly by intim idation ; yet they could not take a position against the present privileges o f the ruling class, support from as m any as possible o f whom they prim arily needed to get - themselves in, and o f w hich they were o f course themselves a part, In their speeches and writings, therefore, we com m only find them p laying at seesaw* N ow they recommend the interests o f the ruling class, now the interests o f the people. H aving written a few pages on one side, they must write as m any on the other. It matters not how m uch the one set o f principles are really at variance w ith the other, provided the discordance is not very visible, or not likely to be clearly seen by the party on whom it is wished that the delusion should pass/38 M ills seesaw in the article Government is quite parallel: the discordance between his two sets o f principles, the one requir ing universal franchise, the other perm itting enormous exclu sions, is kept not very visible by his recom m ending a restricted franchise only hypothetically. H e later denied that he was advocating the exclusion o f women, any more than that o f men under the age o f fo rty ; his son reports him as having said that he was only asking w hat was the utmost allowable lim it o f restriction assuming that the franchise was to be restricted;39 but the wording o f the article suggests not that he regarded the restrictions as unfortunately necessary concessions to political realism, but rather that he regarded them as useful in securing that the electors w ould m ake a good choice.40
3 Westminster Review, i. a 18. 8 3 J. S. M ill: Autobiographys ed. Laski, Oxford Worlds Classics, 1924, pp. 9 87-8. 40 e.g. his statement that a very low [property] qualification is of no

42

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

T h e seesaw in the article Government is com pleted by M ills assurance to his readers, at the very end o f the article, that no danger was to be anticipated from any enfranchisement o f the lower class because the great m ajority o f that class would always be guided b y the middle class. Such reassurance to his middle-class readers M ill m ight have thought advisable, since even the exclusion o f the poorest one-third o f the males m ight be calculated to leave the w orking class in the m ajority. T en years after the article Government, and six years after his analysis o f the seesaw, he felt able to make his position some w hat clearer. In an article devoted to advocating the secret ballot, he w ro te : 'O u r opinion, therefore, is that the business of governm ent is properly the business o f the rich, and that they w ill always obtain it, either by bad means, or good. U pon this every thing depends. I f they obtain it by bad means, the governm ent is bad. I f they obtain it by good means, the governm ent is sure to be good. T h e only good means o f obtain ing it are, the free suffrage o f the people. 41 This catches nicely the best spirit o f M odel i, the high point o f its optim ism : the dem ocratic franchise w ould not only protect the citizens, but w ould even im prove the performance o f the rich as governors. It is scarcely a spirit o f equality.
PROTECTIVE DEMOCRACY FOR MARKET MA N

This was the genesis o f the first modern m odel o f dem ocracy. It is neither inspiring nor inspired. T h e dem ocratic franchise provisions were put in the m odel only belatedly. It is hard to say w hat had the greater effect in m oving the founders o f this model to make their franchise dem ocratic in p rin cip le: whether it was their realization that nothing less than one man, one vote5 would placate a w orking class w hich was showing signs o f becom ing seriously politically articulate (as is suggested by Bentham s remark in 1820 that he supposed they w ouldn t be satisfied with less), or w hether it was the sheer logic o f their ow n case for reform, resting as it did on the assumption o f
use, as affording no security for a good choice beyond that which would exist if no pecuniary qualification was required (Barker ed., p. 49). 41 O n the Ballot*, Westminster Review, July 1830.

Model i:

Protective Democracy

43

conflicting self-interested m axim izing individuals. Either w ay, it is clear that they allow ed themselves a dem ocratic conclu sion only because they had convinced themselves that a vast m ajority o f the working-class would be sure to follow the ad vice and exam ple o f that intelligent, that virtuous rank5, the m iddle class. It is on that note that James M ill closed his som ewhat ambiguous case for a dem ocratic franchise. In this founding model o f dem ocracy for a modern indus trial society, then, there is no enthusiasm for dem ocracy, no idea that it could be a m orally transformative force; it is nothing but a logical requirem ent for the governance o f in herently self-interested conflicting individuals who are assumed to be infinite desirers o f their own private benefits. Its advocacy is based on the assumption that m an is an infinite consumer, that his overriding m otivation is to m axim ize the flow o f satis factions, or utilities, to him self from society, and that a national society is simply a collection o f such individuals. Responsible governm ent, even to the extent o f responsibility to a dem ocratic electorate, was needed for the protection o f individuals and the prom otion o f the Gross N ational Product, and for nothing more. I have draw n a harsh, but I think fair, portrait o f the found ing m odel o f modern W estern dem ocracy. It has nothing in com m on w ith any o f the earlier, pre-industrial visions o f a dem ocratic society. T he earlier visions had asked for a new kind o f m an. T h e founding model o f liberal dem ocracy took m an as he was, m an as he had been shaped by m arket society, and assumed that he was unalterable. It was on this point chiefly that Joh n Stuart M ill and his hum anist liberal followers in the tw entieth century attacked the Benthamist model. But as we shall see, in the next chapter, they were not able to get entirely aw ay from it. For that m odel did fit, rem arkably well, the com petitive capitalist m arket society and the individuals w ho had been shaped by it. A nd that society and those individuals were still well entrenched, in spite of the humanist revulsion against them, later in the nineteenth century and in the twentieth. T h e revulsion was w hat sparked the form ula tion o f M od el 2, first b y John Stuart M ill; but the entrench m ent o f the m arket society and m arket m an sapped the strength o f M odel 2 from the beginning.

Ill Model 2: Developmental Democracy

THE

EMERGENCE

OF M O D E L

W e have seen that Bentharn and Jam es M ill had no vision o f a new kind o f society or a new kind o f m an. T h e y did not need such a vision, because they did not question that their model o f society the hard-driving com petitive m arket society w ith all its class-division was justified b y its high level o f m aterial productivity, and that the inequality was inevitable. In any case, it was a law o f hum an nature that every individual w ould always be trying to exploit everyone else, so nothing could be done about society. A ll that could be done was to prevent governm ents oppressing the governed, and for this a m echani cal protective dem ocratic franchise was sufficient. But by about the m iddle o f the nineteenth century two changes in that society were thrusting themselves on the atten tion o f liberal thinkers, changes w hich required a quite differ ent m odel o f dem ocracy. O ne change was that the working class (which Bentham and Jam es M ill had thought not dan gerous) was beginning to seem dangerous to property. T h e other was that the condition o f the w orking class was becom ing so blatantly inhum an that sensitive liberals could not accept it as either m orally justifiable or econom ically inevitable. Both these changes raised new difficulties for liberal-dem ocratic theory difficulties which, as w e shall see, were never fully overcom e. But those changes did make it clear that a new m odel o f dem ocracy was needed. It was first provided by John Stuart M ill. T h a t the younger M ill did arrive at his M odel 2 because o f the two actual changes is evident from his own writings. He

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

45

was very m uch aware o f the grow ing m ilitancy o f the working class: the revolutions o f 1848 in Europe, and the phenomenon o f the Chartist m ovem ent in England, made a strong im pres sion on him. So did the increasing literacy o f the working class, the spread o f working-class newspapers, and the increase in working-class organizing ability shown in the grow th o f trade unions and m utual benefit societies. M ill was convinced that the poor could not be shut out or held down much longer. Thus in the Political Economy he wrote, in 1848: O f the working men, at least in the more advanced countries of Europe, it may be pronounced certain, that the patriarchal or paternal system of government is one to which they will not again be subject. That question was decided, when they were taught to read, and allowed access to newspapers and political tracts; when dissenting preachers were suffered to go among them, and appeal to their faculties and feelings in opposition to the creeds professed and countenanced by their superiors; when they were brought to gether in numbers, to work socially under the same roof; when rail ways enabled them to shift from place to place, and change their patrons and employers as easily as their coats; when they were encouraged to seek a share in the government, by means of the electoral franchise. The working classes have taken their interests into their own hands, and are perpetually showing that they think the interests of their employers not identical with their own, but opposite to them. Some among the higher classes flatter themselves that these tendencies may be counteracted by moral and religious education: but they have let the time go by for giving an education which can serve their purpose. The principles of the Reformation have reached as low down in society as reading and writing, and the poor will not much longer accept morals and religion of other peoples prescribing. . . . The poor have come out of leadingstrings and cannot any longer be governed or treated like children. . . . Whatever advice, exhortation or guidance is held out to the labouring classes, must henceforth be tendered to them as equals, and accepted by them with their eyes open. The prospect of the future depends on the degree in which they can be made rational beings.1 T h e conclusion that something must be done had been made explicit in 1845 in the lesson he drew from the Chartist m ove m ent
1 Principles o f Political Economy, Bk IV , ch, 7, sects. 1 and 2; in Collected Works, ed. J. M . Robson, Toronto and London, 1965, iii. 761-3.

46

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

The democratic movement among the operative classes, com monly known as Chartism, was the first open separation of interest, feeling, and opinion, between the labouring portion of the common wealth and all above them. It was the revolt of nearly all the active talent, and a great part of the physical force, of the working classes, against their whole relation to society. Conscientious and sympath izing minds among the ruling classes, could not but be strongly impressed by such a protest. They could not but ask themselves, with misgiving, what there was to say in reply to it ; how the existing social arrangements could best be justified to those who deemed themselves aggrieved by them. It seemed highly desirable that the benefits derived from those arrangements by the poor should be made less questionable should be such as could not easily be over looked. If the poor had reason for their complaints, the higher classes had not fulfilled their duties as governors; if they had no reason, neither had those classes fulfilled their duties in allowing them to grow up so ignorant and uncultivated as to be open to these mischievous delusions. While one sort of minds among the more fortunate classes were thus influenced by the political claims put forth by the operatives, there was another description upon whom that phenomenon acted in a different manner, leading, however, to the same result. While some, by the physical and moral circum stances which they saw around them, were made to feel that the condition of the labouring classes ought to be attended to, others were made to see that it would be attended to, whether they wished to be blind to it or not. The victory of 1832, due to the manifesta tion, though without the actual employment, of physical force, had taught a lesson to those who, from the nature of the case, have always the physical force on their side; and who only wanted the organization, which they were rapidly acquiring, to convert their physical power into a moral and social one. It was no longer dis putable that something must be done to render the multitude more content with the existing state of things.2 O ne o f the things that had to be done render the m ulti to tude more content with, the existing state o f things was to abandon or transform the Bentham ite models o f m an and society. A lth ou gh Joh n Stuart M ill hoped that the w o rk in g . class m ight in the future become rational enough to accept the laws o f political econom y (as he understood them), he could not expect th at they w ould accept Bentham s view that the working class was inevitably doom ed to near-indigence. N or
2 The Claims of Labour5 (1845), reprinted in Dissertations and Discussions (1867), ii. 188-90; Collected Works, ed, Robson, 1967, iv. 369-70.

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

47

did he w ant them to accept that view, w hich he believed to be false. H e thought they could pull themselves up out o f their m iserable condition. A nd he was anxious that they should do so, for he was m orally revolted by the life they were compelled to lead. T h e extent o f M ills abandonm ent or transformation o f the Benthamite models o f man, o f society, and o f dem ocracy, w ill appear as we look closely (in the next section) at M ills theory, but some o f the essential differences can be sketched now. T h e striking difference in the models o f dem ocracy is in the purpose w hich a dem ocratic political system was supposed to have. M ill did not overlook the sheerly protective function o f a dem ocratic franchise the function o f w hich James M ill and Bentham had made so much. T h e people needed to be pro tected against the governm ent: hum an beings are only secure from evil at the hands o f others, in proportion as they have the pow er o f being, and are, sz\-protecting.,s But he saw some thing even more im portant to be protected, nam ely, the chances o f the im provem ent o f m ankind. So his emphasis was hot on the m ere holding operation, but on w hat dem ocracy could contribute to hum an developm ent. M ills model of dem ocracy is a moral m odel. W hat distinguishes it most sharp ly from M odel 1 is that it has a m oral vision o f the possibility o f the im provem ent o f m ankind, and o f a free and equal society not yet achieved. A dem ocratic political system is valued as a means to that im provem ent a necessary though not a sufficient m eans; and a dem ocratic society is seen as both a result o f that im provem ent and a means to further im prove ment. T h e im provem ent that is expected is an increase in the am ount o f personal self-developm ent o f all the members o f the society, or, in John Stuart M ills phrase, the advancem ent o f com m unity . . . in intellect, in virtue, and in practical activity and efficiency . T h e case for a dem ocratic political system is that it promotes this advancem ent better than any other political system as w ell as m aking the best use of the am ount o f moral, intellectual and active w orth already existing, so as to operate w ith the greatest effect on public affairs .4 T h e worth of an
3 Considerations on Representative Government, ch. 3, in Collected Works, ed. J. M . Robson, vol. xix, Toronto and London, 1977, p. 404. 4 Ibid., ch. 2, p. 392.

48

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

individual is ju dged by the extent to which he develops his hum an capacities: the end o f man . . . is the highest and most harmonious developm ent o f his powers to a com plete and con sistent w hole. 5 This takes us to the root o f M ills model o f dem ocracy. T h e root is a model o f m an very different from that on w hich M odel i was based. M an is a being capable o f developing his powers or capacities. T h e hum an essence is to exert and develop them. M an is essentially not a consumer and appropriator (as he was in M odel i ) but an exerter and developer and enjoyer o f his capacities. T h e good society is one w hich permits and encourages everyone to act as exerter, developer, and enjoyer o f the exertion and developm ent, o f his or her own capacities. So M ills model o f the desirable society was very different from the model o f society to w hich M odel x o f dem o cracy was fitted. In offering this model o f m an and o f the desirable society M ill set the tone w hich cam e to prevail in liberal-dem ocratic theory, and w hich dom inated at least the A nglo-Am erican concept o f dem ocracy until about the middle o f the twentieth century. T h e narrowing stipulation John Stuart M ill put in his model was dropped by later advocates o f developm ental dem ocracy, but the central vision and the argum ent for it stayed m uch the same. This is the dem ocracy o f L . T . H obhouse and A . D . Lindsay and Ernest Barker, o f W oodrow W ilson and John D ew ey and R . M . M a c lv e r: it is the dem o cracy that W orld W ar I was to m ake the world safe for. It still touches a chord, especially when liberal societies are con fronted by totalitarian ones, although as w e shall see it has now been pretty w ell rejected in favour o f w hat is said to be a more realistic model, the M odel 3 that we shall be exam ining in the next chapter. But M odel, 2 is w orth considerable attention, i f only because efforts now being made to go beyond M odel 3, to re-m oralize dem ocracy under the banner o f participatory dem ocracy (our M od el 4), encounter some o f the same difficulties as did M odel 2, and w ill need to learn from its failure. T h e difficulties encountered by M odel 2 in its first form ulation
5 On Liberty, ch. 3; in Collected Works, xviii. 261, quoting Humboldt.

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

49

were somewhat different from those that beset the later version. So it w ill be useful to look at the two versions in turn, as^ M odels 2 a and 2B. O ne difference between them m ay be stated briefly in advance. M ill had been deeply troubled by the incom patibility he saw between the claims o f equal hum an developm ent and the existing class inequalities o f power and wealth. Although he did not identify the problem accurately, and so was unable to resolve it even in theory, he did see that there was a problem and did try to deal w ith it, at least to the extent o f concerning him self with the necessary social and econom ic prerequisites o f dem ocracy. His tw entieth-century followers scarcely saw this as a problem, at least not as the central p roblem : when they did not let it drop virtually out o f sight, they treated it &s something which would or could be overcome in one w ay or another for instance, by a revival o f idealist m orality, or a new level o f social knowledge and com m unication. Indeed one can see a cum ulative decline in realism from M odel 1 through M odels 2a and 2B. Bentham and James M ill, in form ulating M odel 1, had recognized that capitalism entailed great class inequalities o f power and w ealth: they w ere realistic about the necessary structure of capitalist society, though untroubled by it since it did not conflict with their m erely protective dem ocracy. John Stuart M ill, in his M odel 2A, was less realistic about the necessary structure of capitalist society.: he saw the existing class inequality, and saw "tliat.it was incom patible w ith his developm ental dem ocracy, "But" thought it accidental and rem ediable. T h e twentiethcentury exponents o f developm ental dem ocracy (our M odel 2 b ) were even less realistic than M ill on this score: they generally wrote as if class issues had given w ay, or were giving w ay, to pluralistic differences w hich were not only more m anageable but also positively beneficial. A nd on. top o f this there was a new unrealism in M odel 2B, a descrip tive unrealism. T h ere had been no question o f the two earlier models (1 and 2a) being realistic as descriptions o f an existing dem ocratic system, for in no country in the nineteenth century were governments chosen by m anhood suffrage, let alone universal

50

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

suffrage.6 T h e two earlier models were statements o f what w ould be necessary to achieve at least protection and at best self-development for all. But by the first h a lf o f the twentieth century, w ith at least full m anhood suffrage the general rule in advanced W estern countries, a model could reasonably be expected also to be realistic as a descriptive statement. M odel 2B did offer itself as a statement o f w hat the existing system essentially was (which often m eant, rather, w hat the present im perfect system was capable o f becom ing), as well as a statement o f its desirability. But as a statement o f how the dem ocratic system actually worked M odel 2B was seriously inaccurate, as was demonstrated by the exponents o f M odel 3. M odel 2B m ay thus be said to have been doubly unrealistic: it failed both to grasp the necessary im plications o f capitalist society and to describe the actual tw entieth-century liberaldem ocratic system. T o anticipate our argum ent one further stage, it m ay now be said that the currently prevalent M odel 3, w hich boasts its realism both as a descriptive and explanatory model and as a demonstration o f the necessary limits o f the dem ocratic princi ple o f effective citizen participation, will be found to fall short on both counts. s.

MODEL

2A:

J.

MILL S DEVELOPMENTAL

DEMOCRACY

I have emphasized how different J. S. M ills model o f a desir able society was from Bentham s and James M ills. T h e differ ence can be made more precise. Bentham and Jam es M ill accepted existing capitalist society w ithout reservation; John Stuart M ill did not. T h e difference is clearly expressed in the
6 Although most states in the, United States had manhood white fran chise by about the middle of the nineteenth century, manhood franchise can scarcely be said to have been effectively in existence in the United States until the twentieth century. A few European countries in the nineteenth century (France 1848, Germany 1871) had manhood franchise for the national assembly, but the assembly did not choose or control the govern ment. In the United Kingdom, as late as 1911 only 59 per cent of adult males had the franchise, that is, had their names on the parliamentary electoral roll. See Neal Blewett: T h e Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918, Past and Presenty no. 32 (Dec. 1965).

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

51

younger M ills position on the desirability o f the stationary state w hich he, like they, thought would be the culm ination o f capitalism : they regarded it with dismay, he welcom ed it. As he put it in 1B48: I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of strug gling to get o n ; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and tread ing on each others heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of human kind, or anything but the dis agreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress. It may be a necessary stage in the progress of civilization . . . But it is not a kind of social perfection which philanthropists to come will feel any very eager desire to assist in realizing . . . In the meantime, those who do not accept the present very early stage of human improvement as its ultimate type, may be excused for being com paratively indifferent to the kind of economic progress which excites the congratulations of ordinary politicians; the mere increase of production and accumulation.7 Society, in the vision o f M odel 2, need not be, should not be, w hat M odel 1 had assumed it was and always would be. It need not be and should not be a collection o f com peting, conflicting, self-interested consumers and appropriators. It could and should be a com m unity o f exerters and developers o f their hum an capacities. But it was not that now. T h e prob lem was to get it to advance to that. T h e case for dem ocracy was that it gave all the citizens a direct interest in the actions o f the governm ent, and an incentive to participate actively, at least to the extent o f voting for or against the governm ent, and, it was hoped, also o f inform ing themselves and form ing their views in discussions with others. Com pared w ith any oligarchic system, however benevolent, dem ocracy drew the people into the operations o f governm ent by giving them all a practical interest, an interest w hich could be effective because their votes could bring dow n a go vern m en t D em ocracy w ould thus make people more active, more energetic; it would advance them in intellect, in virtue, and in practical activity and efficiency .
7 Principles o f Political Economy, Bk. IV , ch. 6, sect. a ; in Collected Works,

* 754- 5 -

52

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

This is a rather large claim to make for a system o f repre sentative governm ent in w hich the ordinary persons political activity is confined to voting every few years for a m em ber o f Parliam ent, perhaps a little oftener for local councillors, and perhaps actually holding some elective local office. Even so, the claim m ight be allowed b y contrast w ith any oligarchic system, w hich positively discourages general interest and in volvem ent. By that contrast, dem ocracy m ight seem to lead to self-sustaining, even self-increasing, advancem ent o f the citi zens in moral, intellectual, and active worth, every bit o f participation giving an ability and an appetite for more. But here M ill came up against a difficulty w hich turned out to be insuperable. T o see w hat it was w e must look at another basic difference between John Stuart M ill and Bentham. U nderlying the difference in their moral evaluations o f existing society was a difference in their definitions o f happiness or pleasure, the thing they both held should be m aximized, Bentham had held that in calculating the greatest happiness one need take into account only the amounts o f undifferenti ated pleasure (and pain) actually felt by the individuals. Th ere were no qualitative differences between pleasures: pushpin was as good as poetry. A nd since, as we have seen, he measured pleasure or utility in terms o f m aterial wealth, the aggregate greatest happiness o f the whole society was to be attained by m axim izing productivity (though even that conclusion was fallacious, as we have noticed). J. S. M ill insisted, on the contrary, that there were qualita tive differences in pleasures, and he refused to equate the greatest aggregate happiness w ith m axim um productivity. T h e greatest aggregate happiness was to be got by perm itting and encouraging individuals to develop themselves. T h a t w ould m ake them capable o f higher pleasures, and so would increase the aggregate pleasure measured in both quantity and quality. But at the same time- and this was the fundam ental diffi culty M ill recognized that the existing distribution o f wealth and o f econom ic power m ade it impossible for most members o f the w orking class to develop themselves at all, or even to live hum anly. H e denounced as utterly unjust

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

53

that the produce of labour should be apportioned as we now see it, almost in an inverse ratio to the labour the largest portions to those who have never worked at all, the next largest to those whose work is almost nominal, and so in a descending scale, the remunera tion dwindling as the work grows harder and more disagreeable, until the most fatiguing and exhausting bodily labour cannot count with certainty on being able to earn even the necessaries of life . . ,8 This, he said, was the very opposite o f the only equitable principle o f property, the principle o f proportion between rem uneration and exertion . T h a t was the equitable principle because the only justification o f the institution of private prop erty was that it guaranteed to individuals the fruits o f their own labour and abstinence, not the fruits o f the labour ond abstinence o f others .9 A few pages later M ill gave an extended definition o f prop erty : The institution of property, when limited to its essential elements, consists in the recognition, in each person, of a right to the exclusive disposal of what he or she have produced by their own exertions, or received either by gift or by fair agreement, without force or fraud, from those who produced it. The foundation of the whole is, the right o f producers to what they themselves have produced.10 This seems a reasonable extension o f the principle first an nounced, at least as far as fair agreem ent is concerned, though gift raises a problem. W ithout a property right in w hat one has exchanged by agreem ent for the fruits o f ones labour, not even the simplest exchange econom y would be possible. But M ill is talking about a capitalist exchange economy, where the produce is the result o f the com bination o f current labour with capital provided by someone else, and where the labourer gets as his share only a w age, and the capitalist gets the rest, both shares being determ ined by m arket competition. M ill held that this relation was justified also. Speaking o f the capitalists acquisition from the w age contract, he w ro te : The right of property includes, then, the freedom of acquiring by contract. The right of each to what he has produced, implies a right
8 Ibid., Bk. II, ch. i, sect. 3, p..207. 9 Ibid., p. 208. 10 Ibid., Bk. II, ch. 2, sect. 1, p. 215.

54

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

to what has been produced by others, if obtained by their free con sent; since the producers must either have given it from good will, or exchanged it for what they esteemed an equivalent, and to pre vent them from doing so would be to infringe their right of property in the product of their own industry.11 T h e owner o f the capital, M ill saw, must have a share o f the product, and he held that this was consistent with the equitable principle because capital is simply the product o f previous labour and abstinence. This justified the distribution o f the product between w age-labourers and owners o f c a p ita l: given com petition between capitalists for labourers, and between labourers for em ploym ent, there was a fair division between those who contributed current labour and those who contri buted the fruits o f past labour and abstinence. M ill acknow ledged that the capital was not usually created by the labour and abstinence o f the present possessor, but thought he had m ade a sufficient case for the labour/capital distribution by saying that the present possessor o f capital much more prob a b ly got it by gift or voluntary contract than by wrongful dispossession o f those who had created it by their past labour.12 T h e fact that the present possessors m ay have got some o f their capital by gift, i.e. by inheritance, gave M ill some un easiness: it seemed clearly inconsistent w ith his equitable principle o f property. But he held that the right to dispose o f ones property by bequest was an essential part o f the right o f property. T h e farthest he was w illing to go was to recom m end a lim it on the am ount any one person could inherit, but he set the lim it so high each could inherit enough afford the to means o f com fortable independence13 -that this did nothing to resolve the inconsistency. M ill fell back on the argum ent that while it is true that the labourers are at a disadvantage com pared w ith those whose predecessors had saved, it is also true that the labourers are far better o ff than if those pre decessors had not saved.14
11 Ibid., 12 Ibid., 13 Ibid., 14 Ibid., p. 217. pp. 215-16. Bk. II, ch. 2, sect. 4, p. 225. Bk. II, ch. 2, sect. 1, p. 216.

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

55

T hus M ill was satisfied that there was no inconsistency be tween his equitable principle o f property reward in propor tion to exertion and the principle o f reward in proportion to the m arket value o f both the capital and the current labour required for capitalist production. Y et, as w e have seen, he found the actual prevailing distri bution o f the produce o f labour w holly unjust. H e found the explanation o f that unjust distribution in an historical acci dent, not in the capitalist principle itself.
T h e p rin ciple o f p riva te p ro p erty has n ever yet had a fair trial in a n y co u n try ; an d less so, perhaps, in this cou n try than in some others. T h e social arrangem ents o f m odern E u rop e com m enced from a distribution o f p rop erty w hich was the result, not o f ju st partition , or acq uisition b y ind u stry, b u t o f conquest and v io le n c e : and n otw ith stan d in g w h a t in d u stry has been d oin g for m a n y cen turies to m od ify the w ork o f force, the system still retains m a n y and large traces o f its origin .15

It was this original violent distribution o f property, not any thing in the principle o f private property and capitalist enter prise as such, that had led to the present miserable position o f the bulk o f the w orking class, about the injustice o f w hich M ill was so outspoken: T h e generality o f labourers in this and most other countries, have as little choice of occupation or freedom o f locom otion, are p ractically as dependent on fixed rules and on the w ill o f others, as they could be on any system short o f actual slavery.16 In thus putting the blam e on the original feudal forcible distribution o f property, and the failure o f subsequent prop erty law to rectify it, M ill was able to think that the capitalist principle was not in any w ay responsible for the existing in equitable distributions o f w ealth, incom e, and power, and even to think that it was gradually reducing them. W hat he failed to see was that the capitalist m arket relation enhances or replaces any original inequitable distribution, in that it gives to capital part o f the value added by current labour, thus steadily in creasing the mass o f capital. H ad M ill seen this he could not
15 Ibid., Bk. II, ch. i, sect. 3, p. 207. 16 Ibid., p. 209.

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The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

have judged the capitalist principle consistent w ith his equit able principle. Failing to see this, he found no fundam ental inconsistency, and was not troubled by it. H owever, the present debased position o f the bulk o f the working class did present an im m ediate and serious problem to M ill, and he met it forthrightly. T h e difficulty was that in their present condition they were incapable o f using political power wisely. M ill believed indeed that people were capable o f becom ing something other than self-interested acquirers o f benefit for themselves, but he thought that most o f them had not yet got m uch beyond that. It would be foolish, he said, to expect the average m an, i f given the power to vote, to use it with dis interested regard for others, and especially for w hat comes after them, for the idea o f posterity, o f their country, or o f m ankind5.
G overnm en ts m ust be m ade for hu m an beings as th ey are, or as they are c ap ab le o f speedily b e c o m in g : and in a n y state o f c u ltiv a tion w h ich m ankind , or a n y class am on g them , h a v e yet attain ed , or are likely soon to attain , the interests b y w h ich th ey w ill be led, w hen they are th in kin g on ly o f self-interest, w ill be alm ost e x clu sively those w h ich are obvious at first sight, and w h ich operate on their present cond ition.17

This being so, w hat would happen i f everyone had a vote? Presum ably the selfish society would continue. But there was worse to be feared than that. For M ill recog nized that modern societies were divided into two classes with interests w hich they believed to be opposed, and w hich in im portant respects M ill granted were opposed. T h e classes were, roughly, the w orking class (in w hich he included petty tradesmen) and the em ploying class, including those who lived on unearned incom e and those whose education and w ay o f life assimilate them w ith the rich .18 T h e w orking class was o f course the more n um erous.O n e persoiyone yo.tei-would there fore mean class legislatiorfin the supposed im m ediate interest o f one class, who must be expected to follow their own selfish inclinations and short-sighted notions o f their own good, in
17 Representative Government, ch. 6; in Collected Works, xix, 445, 18 Ibid., p. 447.

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

57

opposition to justice, at the expense o f all other classes and o f posterity .19 Som ething must therefore be done to prevent the m ore numerous class from being able to direct the course o f legislation and adm inistration by its exclusive class interest (even though this would be less o f an evil than the present class rule by a small class based m erely on established w ealth ).20 M ills dilem m a was a real one, for his m ain case for a uni versal franchise was that it was essential as a means o f getting people to develop themselves by participation. M ills w ay out was to recomm end a system o f plural voting for members o f the smaller class, such that neither o f the two classes should outweigh the other, and neither therefore would be able to impose class legislation. 21 Everyone should have a vote, but some should have several votes. O r rather, everyone w ith certain exceptions should have a vote, and some should have several votes. In his Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform, published in 1859, M ill held that a perfect electoral system required both that every person should have one vote and that some should have more than one vote, and said that neither o f these provisions was admissible without the other. But in Representative Government (1861) he argued for plural votes for some along w ith the exclusion o f others from any vote at all. T h e exclusions reflect M ills acceptance o f the standards o f the m arket society. Those in receipt o f poor relief were to be exclu d ed : they had failed in the market. So were undischarged bankrupts. So were all who did not p ay direct taxes. M ill knew that the poor paid indirect taxes, but, he said, they didnt feel them, and therefore would be reckless in using their votes to dem and governm ent largess. T h e direct tax requirem ent was not intended to deprive the poor o f a v o te : the w ay out was to replace some o f the indirect taxes by a direct head tax w hich even the poorest would pay. A gain, those who could fio t read, write, and reckon, were to be ex cluded. This also was not intended as a back-handed w ay o f excluding a large num ber o f the poor, for M ill held that society had a duty to put elem entary schooling w ithin reach o f
19
I b id .,

p. 446.

20 Ibid., ch. 8, p. 467.


21 Ibid., ch. 8, p. 476.

58

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

all who w anted it. But it would effectively have excluded the poor, for he held that when society had failed to perform this duty (as it clearly had in M ills time), the exclusion from the franchise o f those who suffered from that failure was a hard ship that ought to be borne5 .22 W hether or not any o f these provisions would have excluded a significant num ber o f the w orking class, plural voting was still needed, and was recom m ended on an additional ground. T h e system o f plural voting would not only prevent class legis lation : it w ould be positively beneficial by giving more votes to 'those whose opinion is entitled to a greater w eight 23 by virtue o f their superior intelligence, or the superior develop ment o f their intellectual or practical abilities. T h e rough test o f this was the nature o f a person's occupation: employers, men o f business, and professional people are by the nature o f their work generally more intelligent or more knowledgeable than ordinary wage-earners, so they should have more votes. Foremen, as more intelligent than ordinary labourers, and skilled labourers as more intelligent than unskilled, m ight also be allowed more than one vote each. T o meet M ills stipula tion that the working class as a whole should not have more votes than the em ploying and propertied class, members o f the latter w ould have to be given considerably more than two votes each, but M ill excused him self from w orking out the details. T h e closest he came to doing so was his suggestion in Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform that, if the unskilled labourer had one vote, a skilled labourer should have two; a foreman perhaps three; a farmer, m anufacturer, or trader, three or four; a professional or literary m an, an artist, a public func tionary, a university graduate, and an elected m em ber o f a learned society, five or six.24 M ills.gradations are revealing: the entrepreneur (farm er, m anufacturer, or trader ), w ith three or four votes, is not m uch preferred to the foreman, while the intellectuals, artists, and professional people, w ith five or six votes, are the strongly preferred rank. It is curious,
22 Ibid., ch. 8, p. 470. 2s Ibid., ch. 8, p. 474. 24 Collected Works, xix. 324-5.

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

59

incidentally, in view o f M ills concern for the rights of women, that he did not suggest how the entitlem ent o f those women who were neither em ployed nor employers, nor professional or propertied persons, to plural votes was to be determined. T h e im portant point o f principle in all this is that M ill argued explicitly that plural voting on grounds o f superior attainm ents was positively desirable, not m erely negatively desirable as a w ay o f preventing class legislation:
I do n ot propose the p lu ra lity as a thin g in itself undesirable, w h ich , like the exclusion o f p art o f the com m u n ity from the suffrage, m a y be tem p orarily tolerated w h ile necessary to p reven t greater evils. I do not look upon eq u a l vo tin g as am on g the things w h ich are good in them selves, p ro vid ed th ey can be gu ard ed against inconveniences. I look upon it as on ly relativ ely go od ; less ob jec tion able than in e q u a lity o f p rivilege grou n d ed on irrelevan t or ad ven titious circum stances, b u t in principle wrong , because reco g n izin g a w ro n g stan dard, and exercising a b ad influence on the vo ters m ind. It is not useful, b u t hurtful, th at the constitution o f the co u n try should d eclare ign oran ce to be entitled to as m uch p o litica l p o w er as k n ow led ge.25

So Joh n Stuart M ill cannot be ranked as a full egalitarian. Some individuals were not only better than others, but better in ways directly relevant to the political process, better in ways that entitled them to more political weight. Tru e, part o f the reason w hy they were to be given greater w eight was that this w ould make for a better society, at least negatively: it would reduce the likelihood o f short-run narrowly selfish interests being predom inant in legislation and governm ent, which w ould be the outcome o f equal w eighting. U nequal w eighting w ould be more likely to lead to a society dem ocratic in the best sense, a society where everyone could develop his or her hum an capacities to the fullest. Nevertheless, unequal political w eights for citizens were built into M ills model on a ground w hich seems more perm anent: as long as people were unequal in knowledge (and when would they not be?) equal w eighting was w rong in principle. T h e w eighting M ill gave to knowledge and skill led him also to recom m end that Parliam ent should not itself initiate any
25 Representative Government, ch. 8, p. 478 (my italics).

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

legislation but should be confined to approving or rejecting, or sending back for reconsideration b ut not itself amending, legislative proposals all o f w hich would be sent up to it by an expert non-elected Commission. M ills im patience w ith exist ing parliam entary and cabinet procedure is understandable, but his rem edy would reduce the power o f the elected legis lature, and so would contribute to the disincentive o f dem o cratic voters to participate in the electoral process. I f he realized this, he didnt mind it, such was the prem ium he placed on expertise. So M ills model, the original version o f M odel 2, is arith m etically a step backw ard from M odel 1, w hich had stipulated, in principle at least, one person, one vote . But in its m oral dimension M odel 2 is more dem ocratic than M odel 1. M odel 2 is not satisfied w ith individuals as they are, w ith man as infinite consumer and appropriator. It wants to move towards a society o f individuals more hum anly developed and more equally so. It wants not to impose a utopia on the people but to have the people reach the goal themselves, im proving themselves by participating actively in the political process, every instalm ent o f participation leading to an im provem ent in their political capacity, as well as their all-round developm ent, and m aking them capable o f more participation and more self developm ent. It is easy now to point to defects and contradictions in M ills model. A n obvious one is in the matter o f participation and self-development. Participation in the political process was necessary to im prove peoples quality and would im prove it. But participation w ith equal w eight now w ould reinforce low quality. Therefore those who had already attained superior quality, as ju d g ed by their education or station in life, must not be m ade to yield their power to the rest. In the nam e o f equal self-developm ent, a veto is given to those who are already more developed. But the less developed individuals within M ills model, if they stayed w ithin it (that is, if they accepted the inferior electoral w eight M ill gave them), would know that their wills could not prevail, so would not have m uch incentive to participate, so w ould not become more developed. A deeper difficulty, w hich is at the root o f that one, is in

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

61

M ills model o f m an and o f society. M en as shaped by the existing com petitive m arket society were not good enough to m ake themselves better. M ill deplored the effects o f the exist ing m arket society on the hum an character, which made everybody an aggressive scram bler for his ow n m aterial bene fit. H e deplored most strongly the existing relation betw een capital and labour, w hich debased both capitalist and labourer. H e believed there could not be a decently hum an society until that relation was transformed. H e put his hopes on an enor mous spreading o f producers co-operatives, w hereby w ork m en would becom e their own capitalists and work for themselves join tly. H e allowed him self to hope that producers co-ops would call forth such better workmanship, and thus be so m uch more efficient units o f production, that they would displace the capitalist organization o f production. Y e t he accepted and supported the received capitalist prop erty institutions, at least until such time as they had been modified or transformed by his producers co-ops; and even then the com petitive m arket system w ould still operate, for the separate co-operative enterprises w ere expected to com pete in the m arket, and would be driven b y the incentive o f desire for individual gain. In other words, M ill accepted and supported a system w hich required individuals to act as m axim izing con sumers and appropriators, seeking to accum ulate the means to ensure their future flow o f consumer satisfactions, which m eant seeking to acquire property. A system which requires m en to see themselves, and to act, as consumers and appro priators, gives little scope for most o f them to see themselves and act as exerters and developers o f their capacities. M ill did indeed hold out the prospect that the spread o f co-operatives w ould bring a moral revolution to society :
the h ealin g o f the stan din g feud betw een ca p ita l and la b o u r ; the tran sform ation o f h u m an life, from a conflict o f classes stru ggling for opposite interests, to a frien d ly riv a lry in the pursuit o f a good com m on to a l l ; the elevation o f the d ign ity o f la b o u r ; a n ew sense o f security and in d epen d en ce in the lab o u rin g class; an d the con version o f each h u m an b ein gs d a ily o ccu p a tio n into a school o f the social sym pathies and the p ra ctica l in tellig en ce.26
2 Political Economy, Bk. IV , ch. 7, sect. 6; in Collected Works, iii. 792. This 6

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The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

These high hopes rem ained unfulfilled. Class opposition con tinued, and so long as it was not offset in other ways it would still require M ills w atering down o f dem ocracy. For the rational behaviour o f each o f those classes is to try to overbear the opposed class, hence the danger M ill saw o f class govern ment, hence the need to deny as m uch political w eight to each m ember of the more numerous class as to each m em ber o f the less numerous class, hence the Vicious circle o f unequal partici pation justifying continued unequal participation. T h e failure o f the co-operative solution thus left unresolved the contradiction M ill saw between a universal equal franchise and the greatest happiness o f society. There was no w ay out, given his assumption that the working class would use an equal franchise to enact class legislation not consistent with the longrun, qualitative, greatest happiness o f the w hole society. A nd underlying that contradiction was the other one, the contradiction between capitalist relations o f production as such and the dem ocratic ideal o f equal possibility o f individual self-development. This contradiction M ill never fully saw. He cam e close to seeing it in his strictures on the existing la b o u rcapital relation (especially when he was contrasting it m orally w ith the co-operative relatio n ); but, as we have noticed, in his analysis of capitalist m arket relations as such, he justified private property in capital, and the w age-contract, as being consistent in principle with an equitable system. O ne m ight think that the existence o f two such serious short comings in M ills liberal-dem ocratic theory would have been enough to prevent it m aintaining, in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the position it had won in mid-nineteenth century as the m odel o f liberal dem ocracy. But this is not quite what, happened. A nd it is easy to see why. In the first place, the underlying contradiction could be expected to lead to the abandonm ent o f the theory only i f M ills followers had seen it as a flaw in the theory. But in fact,
contrasts oddly with M ills statement in 1838: 'The numerical majority of any society whatever, must consist of persons ail standing in the same social position, and having in the main, the same pursuits, namely, unskilled manual labourers . . (Bentham, in Essays on Ethics, Religion and Society, Collected Works, x, 107).

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

63

as we shall see in the last section o f this chapter, the later liberal-dem ocratic theorists showed even less recognition than M ill o f any fundam ental incom patibility between capitalist m arket relations and the equal possibility o f individual self developm ent. So they could, and did, still hold to M ills case for developm ental dem ocracy. In the second place, the incom patibility M ill had seen be tween a universal equal franchise and the existing opposition o f class interests seemed, by the beginning o f the twentieth century, to have disappeared. M ills fear o f class governm ent i f there w ere a universal equal franchise had turned out to be unfounded, at least for the time being. Bentham and James M ill had been right about the working class following the lead o f the m iddle class, although as I shall suggest they were right for the wrong reasons. In any case, when the first large instal m ent o f m anhood equal suffrage was introduced in England in 1884, eleven years after M ills death, and further instalments later, they did not bring class rule by the w orking class. So M ills followers could, and did, cheerfully abandon the inegalitarian provisions o f his m odel the plural voting and the dow ngrading o f the elected legislature in favour o f an expert legislative commission while holding to his main develop m ental case. W e should not, therefore, speak o f M o d el 2 a as a failure. Its m ain lines continued to be generally accepted by liberaldemocrats, the more easily because its inegalitarian stipula tions could be dropped. T h ey were dropped, partly because they cam e to appear unnecessary, and partly because it be cam e clear that anything o f that sort would be unacceptable to forbiddingly strong popular m ovem ents.27 But this enabled the rest of M odel 2 A to live on, as 2B, w ell into the twentieth century. T h e consistent success o f the reigning politicians in the nineteenth century, and o f the system itself in the twentieth
27 The strength of such movements was evident in the agitation for the 1867 Reform Bill, of which M ill was a close and concerned observer, He withdrew his undertaking to endorse the radical Reform League when he found that it was appealing to physical force to attain its uncompromising franchise demands. (Mill to W. R. Gremer, i March 1867, Later Letters; in Collected Works, xvi. 1247-8.) See also R oy den Harrison: Before the Socialists, Studies in Labour and Politics i 8 6 i - i 8 8 r , London and Toronto, 1965, ch. 3.

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

century, in deflecting the m enacing im plications o f the dem o cratic franchise, delayed the failure o f M odel 2 until the m id-twentieth century. A nd it failed then not because its m id-twentieth-century critics, the exponents o f M odel 3, had realized or exposed the internal contradictions in M odel 2, for they did not. It failed for different reasons, which we must now explore.

THE

TAMING

OF T H E

DEMOCRATIC

FRANCHISE

Before we look at the fortunes o f the later developm ental model, we must exam ine the reason w hy the equal m anhood franchise did not bring about the class governm ent that M ill had feared, so that the w ay was left open for the later liberaldemocrats to redeploy M ills general case. This w ill help us to understand both the sway o f the later developm ental m odel down to about the m iddle o f the twentieth century, and its ultim ate failure. W hat happened was something w hich M ill did not foresee, perhaps could scarcely have foreseen. But the interesting thing is that the later developm ental theorists, those who promoted M odel 2B, did not seem to see it or understand it, though they should have been able to see it by then. A nd I shall suggest that their failure to see it was w hat led to the failure o f 2B and its supersession by M odel 3. T h e reason that the equal m anhood franchise did not bring about the class governm ent M ill had feared was the extra ordinary success w ith w hich the party system was able to tame the dem ocracy. This is im portant because, although it gave M odel 2 a new lease on life, it was in the end M odel 2s un doing. For it left the actual dem ocratic political process largely unable to provide the effective d e g re e . o f participation its advocates claim ed or hoped for it, and unable to promote that personal developm ent and moral com m unity w hich was the m ain rationale offered for liberal dem ocracy. It is this w hich so underm ined M odel 2 that it could be swept aside in m id tw entieth century b y the apparently more realistic M odel 3 exam ined in the next chapter. H ow did the party system rescue the developm ental model

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

65

and enable it to hold the field, in its revised equal-franchise form, for another h a lf century or more? H ow was the party system able to prevent the class take-over that M ill had feared, and so allow the developm ental im age o f dem ocracy to be m aintained b y liberal advocates after the equal franchise had been introduced? A universal equal franchise would obviously give the preponderant voice to the w age-earning working class in the more industrialized countries, and to the farmers and other small independent operators (or a m ixture o f them and wage-earners) in the less industrialized ones, and in both cases a conflict o f interests w ith established capitalist property was to be expected. H ow could a thing as m echanical and neutral as a system o f com peting parties prevent the take-over o f power by the subordinate but more numerous class or classes? W ould not a party system, in so far as it efficiently represented the num erical w eight o f the different interests, actually bring about the take-over rather than prevent it? Y e t the take-over has been prevented, and through the instrum entality o f the party system, in all the W estern democracies. T h e w ay this has happened has been somewhat different in different countries, depending partly on the class composition o f the country, partly on w hether there was a responsible nondem ocratic party system in operation before the arrival o f the dem ocratic franchise, and partly on other differences o f national traditions. I cannot attem pt here an analysis o f all the com plex differences between the ways the party systems performed the same basic function in countries as different as England, the U nited States, C an ad a, and the various W estern European nations. Y e t it is not difficult to see, if one shifts the focus slightly from that o f the usual descriptions o f the function o f the party system, that its m ain function is not m erely to produce a stable political equilibrium but to produce a particular kind o f equilibrium . I think it is not overstating the case to say that the ch ief function the party system has actually performed in Western dem ocracies since the inception o f a dem ocratic franchise has been to blunt the edge o f apprehended or probable class con flict, or, i f you like, to m oderate and smooth over a conflict o f class interests so as to save the existing property institutions and

66

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

the m arket system from effective attack. This is less evident in A m erica than in Europe, where the relation between party and class is generally more obvious. A n d it is less evident than it might be to twentieth-century observers anywhere, because o f the very success of the party system in thrusting out o f sight class issues which in the nineteenth century had bulked m uch larger. T h e function o f blurring class lines and so m ediating between conflicting class interests can be seen to be equally well per formed by any of three varieties o f party system: (i) a twoparty (or two dom inant parties) system, even where the parties were intended to represent two opposed class interests, as in England with the L abou r and Conservative parties; (2) a twoparty (or two dom inant parties) system where each main party is a loose organization o f m any regional and sectional interests, as in the U nited States and C an ad a; or (3) a m ulti-party sys tem w ith so m any parties that the governm ent generally has to be a coalition, as in most W estern European countries. In the first case, each party tends to move towards a middle posi tion, which requires that it avoid an apparently class position. It must do this in order to be able to project an im age o f itself as a national party standing for the common good, w ith out w hich im age it fears it will not stand m uch chance o f longrun m ajority support. In the second case each o f the m ain parties is compelled to act in a similar w ay, only more so: each must offer a platform w hich is all things to all men and which is therefore very indefinite. T ru e, in such a system, a third or fourth party m ay start with a position w hich has a specific class content, but i f such a party grows to a size that puts it within reach o f being the second or first party, it has to do the same. In the third case, a really m ulti-party system, where no one party can usually expect a m ajority, no party can give an unequivocal undertaking to the electorate because both the party and the electorate jknow that the party w ill have to compromise continually in the coalition governm ent. N ow it is true that none o f these three blurring systems could have operated as they have done if a bi-polar class-division in the country as a whole had overridden both the sense o f national identity and all sectional, religious, ethnic, and other cross-currents. None o f the three systems could operate as they

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

67

do if the num erically largest econom ic class were a singleminded class, whose members were not pulled in other direc tions by such cross-currents or by traditional attachm ents. But as it happened, in all these countries, at the same time the dem ocratic franchise was becom ing operative, there were factors w hich weakened the expected bi-polar division between those who supported and those who seemed likely to reject the existing system o f property and o f m arket competition. In nineteenth-century N orth Am erica, continental expansion and free land m ade the largest class, independent farmers and other small working proprietors, the epitome o f the petty-bourgeoisie: they wanted private capitalism and the m arket economy, pro vided only it was not rigged in favour o f the capitalists o f the com m ercial metropolises. In the same period, the late nine teenth and early twentieth centuries, the im perial expansion in w hich England and most o f the W estern European countries were indulging allowed their governments to afford handouts to their electorates which reduced the working-class pressures for fundam ental reforms. H ad it not been for these factors, the apparently neutral party system could not have done the jo b . But given these factors, w ithout the party system it is unlikely that the jo b could have been done. T h e party system, in w hichever of its variants, was the means by which the jo b o f blurring the still underlying class differences was done. T h e party system had a built-in ability to do this because o f another feature. W ith every extension o f the franchise, a party system becomes necessarily less responsible to the electorate. T a k e the classic case o f the English party system. It had been the effective means of m aking and unm aking governments for h a lf a century or more before there was anything like a dem o cratic franchise. As long as the franchise was confined to the propertied class, the relatively small number o f electors in each constituency m ade it possible for the electors to exert con siderable influence, even control, over their elected member. A nd because the M .P.s could thus be held responsible to their constituents, or at least to the active party people in the con stitu en cy,-i.e. to the constituency party, however loosely organized it m ight be, they could not be dom inated by the cabinet, i.e. the leading m en in the parliam entary party.

68

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

A ll this changed with the dem ocratization o f the franchise. A ppeal to a mass electorate required the form ation o f wellorganized national parties outside the parliam entary parties. Effective organization required centrally controlled party machines. Endorsement by the party m achine becam e vir tually the only w ay o f getting elected to Parliam ent. T h e cen tral party leadership was therefore able to control its M .P .s. T h e m ain power fell to the party leaders in Parliam ent, for they, i.e. the Prime M inister and his leading c a b l e t ministers, com m anded the threat o f expulsion from the party and the threat o f dissolving Parliam ent prem aturely, thus com pelling new elections. T h e cabinet was thus enabled to dom inate Parliam ent to a high degree. It still does so. N ot only is it able to do s o : it is now required to do so. For the universal franchise brought a change in the basic jo b the political system had to do, a change w hich necessitated governm ent control, rather than constituency or outside party control, o f the parliam entary party. Before the franchise be cam e dem ocratic, the function o f the system was to respond to the needs o f shifting combinations o f various elements o f the propertied class, w hich could best be done by governm ents w hich were responsible, through the M .P.s, to the leadingconstituents. But w ith the dem ocratic franchise, the system has had to m ediate between the dem ands o f two classes, those w ith and those w ithout substantial property. This has m eant that the system has continually to be arranging compromises, or at least apparent compromises. C ontinual compromise re quires room for manoeuvre. It is the governm ent that must have this room. In a m ulti-party system, where every govern ment is a coalition, this is understood. It is not always un derstood that room for manoeuvre is just as necessary in a tw o-party (or two m ajor parties) system, where the governm ent is norm ally all from one party. But room for manoeuvre is equally necessary there, for. w hat requires continual compromise is the opposition o f interests in the country, w hether or not that opposi tion is represented w ithin the governm ent. A governm ent, especially a m ajority governm ent, cannot have this room for manoeuvre i f it is held closely responsible even to the parlia m entary party, let alone to the outside party as a whole

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

69

through an annual party convention, or to the constituency parties. E very attem pt, by dem ocratic reform parties and movements in parliam entary countries, to make the govern m ent and the members o f parliam ent strictly responsible to the popular organization outside has failed. A sufficient reason for the failure is that such strict responsibility does not allow the room for manoeuvre and compromise which a governm ent m ade up entirely from one party must have in order to carry out its function o f m ediating between opposed class interests in the whole society. T h e general conclusion from this glance at the party system is that the party system has been the means o f reconciling universal equal franchise w ith the m aintenance o f an unequal society. It has done so b y blurring the issues and by diminish ing governm ents responsibility to electorates. It has had to do both these things in order to perform the functions required o f it in an unequal society. It has thus necessarily failed to induce the widespread popular participation in the political process w hich M odel 2 required, and hence has failed to develop the active individual as citizen, and to promote moral com m unity, as M odel 2 expected.
MODEL TWENTIETH-CENTURY

2 B:
DEMOCRACY

DEVELOPMENTAL

W hile all this was happening, the rationale put forward by liberal democrats rem ained the developm ental case substan tially M ills case minus the plural voting proposal. I shall not take time to exam ine the dem ocratic theories o f the early tw entieth-century writers in detail. But it m ay con fidently be said that the tone, the ideal, and the basic justifica tion are m uch the same as M ills in all the leading English and A m erican theorists o f the first h a lf o f the twentieth century, w hether in the philosophic idealist tradition (Barker, Lindsay, M a clve r), or the pragm atist (Dewey), or the modified utili tarian (Hobhouse). T h e only exceptions were the few theorists w ho explicitly tried to combine liberal values w ith some kind o f socialism (Cole, Laski), but they did not significantly deflect the liberal tradition. A nd in the m ain liberal tradition o f that

70

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

period there was, by comparison even with M ill, a steady decline in the realism o f the analyses o f liberal dem ocracy. M ill had seen the contradiction between his developm ental ideal and the class-divided and exploitive society o f his ow n time. He failed to resolve it, even in theory, because he had not identified it accu rately: he did not see that it was a contradic tion between capitalist relations o f production as such and the developm ental ideal. But at least he did not assume that the dem ocratic political process could itself overcome the class division and exploitation. H e put his hopes in other things as w ell producers co-operatives, working-class education, etc. These hopes were not fulfilled, but at least he did not p ut all the burden on the dem ocratic process itself. T h e theorists o f the first h a lf o f the twentieth century in creasingly lost sight o f class and exploitation. T h ey generally wrote as if dem ocracy itself, at least a dem ocracy that em braced the regulatory and welfare state, could do most o f w hat could be done, and most o f w hat needed to be done, to bring a good society. T h ey were, indeed, not insensitive to problems o f the concentration o f private econom ic pow er; and they were not friendly towards the individualist ideology, w hich they saw underlying the existing order. Lindsay, for instance, was strongly against the atom ic individualism which has dogged m odern dem ocratic theory from the beginning, w hich, oddly, he identified not only with Bentham but also w ith M arx. A nd he did not com pletely accept the existing control o f production by capital: the application to the governm ent o f industry o f . . . dem ocratic principles would be the fulfilm ent o f dem o cracy. But w hat he thought sufficient for the dem ocratic con trol o f business was some control o f m onopolistic business. T h e consumers sovereignty o f a fully com petitive m arket econom y was perfectly acceptable,. T h ere was nothing wrong with capi talist relations o f production as such. In the end, his hope for dem ocracy cam e down to a more lively flourishing o f pluralistic non-political dem ocratic associations like churches and universities.28 This neo-idealist pluralism was a strong current in early
2 8 A. D. Lindsay: The Essentials o f Democracy, 2nd edn., London, 1935, pp. 6, 5, 64 ff., 73-4.

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

71

tw entieth-century liberal-dem ocratic theory. A nd there was some excuse, or at least some reason, for those theorists neglect o f class division. T h e dem ocratic party system had apparently solved the problem : it had overcome the danger o f class governm ent. But they did not see how it had done this, that is, by reducing the dem ocratic responsiveness o f governments to electorates, and so preventing class division from operating politically in any effective w ay. So they could, and did, write as i f the dem ocratic process were an arrangem ent whereby rational, well-intentioned citizens, who had o f course a whole variety o f different interests, could adequately adjust their differences in the peaceful, rational, give-and-take o f parties and pressure groups and the free press. T h ey allowed them selves to hope that the class issue would go a w a y : either that it was already being replaced by pluralistic social groups, or that it w ould be so reduced by the welfare and regulatory state that a dem ocratic society would be consistent with a capitalist m arket society. T hus Barker, while seeing an am ount o f class-debate that required giving some attention to reckoning gain and loss betw een different classes and sections , and while recognizing that some redistribution o f rights between classes m ight be necessary i f the greatest num ber are to enjoy the greatest pos sible developm ent o f the capacities o f personality , considered such redistribution to be 'a m atter for constant adjustment and readjustment, as social thought about justice grows and as the interpretation o f the principles o f liberty and equality broadens w ith its grow th .29 A nd he thought that the adjustments now required m ay w ell begin, and m ay even sometimes remain, at the level o f voluntary agreem ent between voluntary asso ciations (those o f the workers and those o f the employers), an agreem ent based on voluntary consultation and issuing in voluntary co-operation, W hen in this w ay something had been worked out that was so obviously best as to deserve to be m ade a general rule, state action w ould be appropriate. In that case the State, w hich is not the enem y o f Society, but rather stands to it in something o f the relation in w hich a
2 9 271-2. Ernest Barker: Principles o f Social & Political Theory, Oxford, 1951, pp.

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

solicitor m ay stand to a fam ily, will register and endorse this best as a rule for general application and enforcem ent. 30 T h e notion that class differences could be adjusted as social thought about justice grows, and that this could be done by voluntary class co-operation aided by a fam ily-solicitor state, is something o f a retreat from M ills appreciation o f the class problem. It also makes M ills utilitarian analysis appear hardheaded and realistic in comparison w ith the later idealists reliance on goodwill. In a similar vein, M a clv e r defined dem ocratic states as those in which the general will is inclusive o f the com m unity as a w hole or o f at least the greater portion of the com m unity, and is the conscious, direct, and active support o f the form o f governm ent.31 H e specifically distinguished dem ocratic states from class-controlled states, and found that in modern civiliza tions classes shaded into one another and had no determ inate solidarity o f interest.32 He drew attention to the enormous range o f interest groups and associations, m aking up a social universe where there is ceaseless motion and commotion, struggle and accord .33 A nd he saw the party system as the effective w ay o f reducing the multitudinous differences o f opinion to relatively simple alternatives .34 T h e task o f the dem ocratic state, a task w hich it did perform, how ever roughly, was to express and enforce the general w ill by representing men as citizens rather than as holders o f particular interests.
T h e d a n g er is not th at p a rticu la r interests w ill n ot b e focused and asserted but rath er that the gen eral interest m a y suffer d om ination th rou gh their u rgen cy. A g ain st this d an ger the c h ie f b u lw a rk is the state, because its orga n iza tio n presupposes and in som e degree realizes the a ctiv ity o f the gen eral w ill. Besides, w e m ust assume th a t through the rou gh m ethod o f p o litica l representation the pluses an d m inuses o f p articu larist an d opposin g aim s w ill, as R ousseau said, in a m easiire can cel out.
3 Ibid., pp. 275-6. 0 * 31 R. M . M aclver: The Modern State, Oxford, 1926, p. 342. 32 Ibid., p. 403. 33 M aclver: The Web o f Government, N ew York, 1947, p. 435; cf. Modern State, p. 461. 34 Web o f Government, p. 214.

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

73

. . . Men are n6t content to be represented simply as farmers or as engineers or as Anglicans or as lovers of music or any other art or recreation: they want also to be represented as citizens. Otherwise the unity of their individual lives is unexpressed, no less than the unity of society. This representation is achieved, no matter how roughly, through the development of the party system. We have seen that though parties are dominated by strong particular inter ests they are in idea and in principle the formulations of the broader attitudes of citizenship. Unless they were, the state would fall to pieces.35 Thus M a c lv e r offered his vision o f the essential function o f the state as a description o f the function actually performed, though im perfectly, by liberal-dem ocratic states through their party systems. i W hen we turn from the neo-idealist view to John D ew eys pragm atist view o f liberal democracies, we find it less indul gent about their actual operation. Y e t he held out as a possi bility and a hope w hat the idealist pluralists treated as an achievem ent. H e had few illusions about the actual dem ocratic system, or about the dem ocratic quality o f a society dom inated b y motives o f individual and corporate gain. T h e root diffi culty lay not in any defects in the m achinery o f governm ent b ut in the fact that the dem ocratic public was still largely inchoate and unorganized, and unable to see w hat forces o f econom ic and technological organization it was up against.36 T h ere was no use tinkering with the political m achinery: the prior problem was that o f discovering the means by w hich a scattered, mobile and m anifold public m ay so recognize itself as to define and express its interests .37 T h e publics present incom petence to do this was traced to its failure to understand the technological and scientific forces w hich had m ade it so help less. T h e rem edy was to be sought i n more, and more widespread, social know ledge: dem ocracy is a nam e for a life o f free and enriching communion. It had its seer in W alt W hitm an. It will have its consum m ation w hen free social enquiry is indissolubly w edded to the art o f full and m oving com m unication. 38
35 Modern State, pp. 465-6. 3 John Dewey: The Public and Its Problems (1927}, Denver, 1954, p. 109. 6 37 Ibid., p. 146. 38 Ibid., p. 184.

74

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

W hat was needed was not just more education a rem edy to which many earlier liberals had had recourse but an im provement in the social sciences by applying the experim ental method and the method o f co-operative intelligence .39 T he essential need . . . is the im provem ent o f the methods and conditions o f debate* discussion and persuasion. T h a t is the problem o f the public. . . . this im provem ent depends essen tially upon freeing and perfecting the processes o f inquiry and of dissemination o f their conclusions.40 Also needed was a large measure o f social control o f economic forces. W riting under the im pact o f the great depression, D ewey argued for a planned co-ordination o f industrial developm ent, preferably by voluntary agreem ent, perhaps by way o f a co-ordinating and directive council in w hich captains o f industry and finance would meet w ith representatives o f labor and public officials to plan the regulation o f industrial activity . . in any case, the introduction o f social respon sibility into our business system to such an extent that the doom o f an exclusively pecuniary-profit industry would fol low . 41 A few years later, denouncing control b y the few o f access to means o f productive labor on the part o f m any , and noting the existence o f class conflicts, am ounting at times to veiled civil w ar , he argued that liberalism should go beyond the provision o f social services and socialize the forces o f pro duction, now at hand, so that the liberty o f individuals w ill be supported by the very structure o f econom ic organization .42 But the forces o f production w hich were to be socialized were science and technology, w hich were now perverted from their proper end. This could not be done either by patchw ork or by socialist revolution, but only by the m ethod o f cooperative intelligence .43 A lthough he referred m ore than once to the desirability o f a socialized econom y ,44 it is not at all clear what he had in mind. H e was not interested in any analysis o f
39 Liberalism and Social Action (1935), New York, 1963, p. 81; cf. Public and Its Problems, p. 202. 4 Public and Its Problems, p. 208. 0 41 Individualism O ld and New (1929), New York, 1962, pp. 117-18. 42 Liberalism and Social Action, pp. 38, 80, 88. 43 Ibid., p. 81 4 Ibid., pp. 90, 91. 4

Model 2:

Developmental Democracy

75

capitalism . H e was entirely taken up w ith the prospects o f a dem ocratic liberalism. A cknow ledging that our institutions, dem ocratic in form, tend to favor in substance a privileged plutocracy , he went on to say:
N evertheless it is sheer defeatism to assum e in a d va n ce o f actu al trial th at d em ocratic p o litical institutions are in ca p a b le either o f further d evelopm ent or o f constructive social ap p licatio n . E ven as th ey n ow exist, the form s o f representative governm ent are poten tia lly cap ab le o f expressing the p u b lic w ill w hen that assumes a n y th in g like u n ification .45

W hat above all was needed was for liberals to apply to social relations and social direction the method o f experim ental and cooperative intelligence5 that had already accom plished so m uch in subduing to potential hum an use the energies o f physical nature .46 D ew ey, then, while far from relying on the existing dem o cratic political m achinery to bring about the desired trans form ation o f society, appealed from dem ocratic m achinery to dem ocratic humanism. D em ocracy is a w ay o f life : it cannot now depend upon or be expressed in political institutions alone .47 T h e hum anistic view which he saw as the essential of dem ocracy must be infused into every phase o f our culture science, art, education, morals and religion, as well as politics and economics .48 This was to be done prim arily through the spread o f a scientific outlook: the future o f dem ocracy is allied w ith the spread o f the scientific attitude. A nd it must all be done by plural, partial and experim ental methods.4 9 T h e distance between D ew eys pragm atism , w ith its strong early twentieth-century influence in the U nited States, and the pluralist idealism which was so prevalent in English liberaldem ocratic thinking in the same period, is not great. Both saw a need for plural, partial and experim ental methods . T h e English theorists were m ore inclined to revert to the values o f
45 Ibid., pp. 85-6. 4 Ibid., p. 92. 6 47 Freedom and Culture, New York, 1939, pp. 130, 125. 4 Ibid., p. 125. 8 4 Ibid., pp. 148, 176. 9

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

ancient Athens, the Am ericans to the tam ing o f technology; but both were firm believers in the efficacy o f pluralism. It is perhaps not unfair to say that all o f them had uncon sciously accepted the im age o f the dem ocratic political process as a m arket, a free m arket in w hich everything w ould work out to the best advantage o f everybody (or to the least disadvan tage of anybody). T h e y did > not make the m arket analogy explicitly, because it was too crass, too m aterialistic: they still held to the dem ocratic ideal o f individual self-development, whereas the m arket analogy im plied narrow seeking o f im m ediate self-interest. T h e y did not wish to im pute to the citizen the narrow rationality o f m arket man. But they could and did im pute a citizen rationality capable o f overcom ing the im per fections o f the actual dem ocratic system. T h e y were encour aged to do this because the actual system had survived: M a clv e r, for instance, could cite the fact o f its survival as evidence that citizens had, in addition to their particular will, a rational general will as citizens, and that the system did allow that will to be expressed.50 W hat the twentieth-century developm ental theorists did not see, as w e have noticed, was the extent to w hich the system had survived by reducing the responsiveness o f governments to electorates. It was the developm ental theorists failure to see this that enabled them to postulate an overriding citizen rationality and build it into their descriptive model. A nd it was their putting this in their descriptive m odel that left them wide open to the shattering attack o f the m id-twentieth-century em pirical political scien tists. In the end, it was the failure o f the developm ental theorists to see the difference between the actual dem ocratic system w hich was very m uch like a m arket (although far from a fully com petitive m arket), and their idealistic developm ental hopes, that led to the .failure o f M odel 2B and its supersession by M odel 3, which w a s,a n entirely tough, and seemingly realistic, m arket model.
50 As quoted above, at n. 35.

IV
Model 3: Equilibrium Democracy

THE

ENTREPRENEURIAL

MARKET

ANALOGY

M odel 3, the model w hich came to prevail in the W estern w orld in the m iddle decades o f the twentieth century, was offered as a replacem ent for the failed M odel 2. It is, to an extent not always realized, a reversion to and elaboration o f M odel 1. T h a t is the measure at once o f its congruence with m arket society and bourgeois man, and o f its increasingly apparent inadequacy. I have called M odel 3 the equilibrium model. It m ay equally w ell be called, as it sometimes is, the pluralist Elitist model. Perhaps the only adequately descriptive name would be one w hich com bined all three terms, the pluralist elitist equilibrium m odel, for these three characteristics are equally central to it. It is pluralist in that it starts from the assumption that the society w hich a m odern dem ocratic political system must fit is a plural society, that is, a society consisting o f indivi duals each o f whom is pulled in m any directions by his m any interests, now in com pany w ith one group o f his fellows, now w ith another. It is Elitist in that it assigns the m ain role in the political process to self-chosen groups o f leaders. It is an equi librium model in that it presents the dem ocratic process as a system w hich m aintains an equilibrium between the demand and supply o f political goods. M odel 3 was first system atically, though briefly, form ulated in 1942, by Joseph Schum peter, in a few chapters o f his in fluential book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Since then it has been built up and m ade apparently solid by the work o f m any political scientists who have am plified and supported it

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

by a substantial am ount o f em pirical investigation o f how voters in W estern democracies actually behave and how exist ing W estern political systems actually respond to their be haviour.1 T h e m ain stipulations o f this m odel are, first, that dem ocracy is simply a mechanism for choosing and authorizing govern ments, not a kind o f society tior a set o f moral ends; and second, that the m echanism consists o f a com petition between two or more self-chosen sets o f politicians (elites), arrayed in political parties, for the votes w hich w ill entitle them to rule until the next election. T h e voters role is not to decide political issues and then choose representatives who will carry out those decisions: it is rather to choose the men who w ill do the decid ing. Thus Schum peter; the role o f the people is to produce a governm ent . . . the dem ocratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in w hich indivi duals acquire the power to decide by means o f a com petitive struggle for the peoples vote. 2 T h e individuals who so com pete are, o f course, the politicians. T h e citizens role is simply to choose between sets o f politicians periodically at election time. T h e citizens ability thus to replace one governm ent by another protects them from tyranny. A nd, to the extent that there is any difference in the platforms o f the parties, or in the general lines o f policy to be expected o f each party as a governm ent (on the basis o f its record), the voters in choosing between parties register their desire for one batch o f political goods rather than another. T h e purveyors o f the batch which gets the most votes become the authorized rulers until the next election: they cannot tyrannize because there will be a next election. M odel 3 deliberately empties out the m oral content which M odel 2 had put into the idea o f dem ocracy. Th ere is no non sense about dem ocracy as a vehicle for the im provem ent o f
1 Leading works are: Bernard R . Bereison, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and William N. M cPhee: Voting, Chicago, 1954; Robert A. Dahl: A Preface to Democratic Theory, Chicago, 1956; Dahl: Who Governs?, New Haven, 1961; Dahl: Modern Political Analysis, Englewood Cliffs, N .J., 1963; Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba: The Civic Culture, Princeton, 1963. 2Joseph Schumpeter: Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 2nd edn,, New York and London, 1947, p. 269.

Model 3:

Equilibrium Democracy

79

m ankind. Participation is not a value in itself, nor even an instrum ental value for the achievem ent o f a higher, more socially conscious set o f hum an beings. T h e purpose o f dem o cracy is to register the desires o f people as they are, not to con tribute to w hat they m ight be or m ight wish to be. D em ocracy is sim ply a m arket m echanism: the voters are the consumers; the politicians are the entrepreneurs. It is not surprising that the m an who first proposed this model was an economist who had worked all his professional life w ith m arket models. Nor is it surprising that the political theorists (and then the publicists and the public) took up this model as a realistic one, for they also have lived and worked in a society perm eated by m arket behaviour. N ot only did the m arket model seem to correspond to, and hence to explain, the actual political behaviour o f the m ain component parts o f the political system the voters and the parties; it also seemed to justify that behaviour, and hence the whole system. For in the m id-twentieth century, when it still did not seem too naive to talk about consumers sovereignty in the economic m arket, it was easy to see a parallel in the political m arket: the political consumers were sovereign because they had a choice between the purveyors o f packages o f political goods. It was easy for the political theorists to make the same assumptions as the econom ic theorists. In the econom ic m odel, entrepreneurs and consumers were assumed to be rational m aximizers o f their own good, and to be operating in conditions o f free com petition in which all energies and resources were brought to the m arket, w ith the result that the m arket produced the optim um distribution o f labour and capital and consumer goods. So in the political model, politicians and voters were assumed to be rational maximizers, and to be operating in conditions o f free political com petition, w ith the result that the market-like political system produced the optim um distribu tion o f political energies and political goods. T h e dem ocratic political m arket produced an optim um equilibrium o f inputs and outputs o f the energies and resources people w ould put into it and the rewards they would get out o f it. I have pointed out elsewhere3 that by the time the political scientists had
3 Democratic Theory: Essays in Retrieval, Oxford, 1973, Essay X .

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

taken over this econom ic model it was already being discarded or m uch m odified by economists in favour o f an oligopolistic power-bloc model o f the economy. But the notion o f con sumers sovereignty is still accepted in the pluralist political m odel, and serves as an im plicit justification o f it. This model makes another m arket assumption. Not only does it assume that political man, like econom ic man, is essen tially a consumer and an ap p rop riator: it assumes also that the things different people w ant out o f the governm ent the demands for political goods are so diverse and shifting that the only w ay o f m aking them effective, the only w ay o f getting the governm ents decisions to meet them, the only w ay o f eliciting the required supply o f political goods and getting it distributed in proportion to the m yriad demands, is an entre preneurial system like that w hich operates in the standard model o f the com petitive m arket economy. G iven that the political demands are so diverse that no natural or spontaneous grouping o f them could be expected to produce a clear m ajority position, and given that in a dem ocracy the govern m ent should express the w ill o f the m ajority, it follows that a device is needed w hich w ill produce a m ajority w ill out o f those diverse demands, or will produce the set o f decisions most agreeable to, or least disagreeable to, the whole lot o f diverse individual demands. A system o f entrepreneurial politi cal parties offering differently proportioned packages o f politi cal goods, o f which the voters by m ajority vote choose one, is offered as the best, or the only, device for doing this: it produces a stable governm ent w hich equilibrates dem and and supply. This pluralism o f M odel 3 evidently has something in com mon w ith the pluralism .we have seen in M odel 2B. But there is a considerable qualitative difference. T h e pluralism o f M odel 3 leaves out the ethical com ponent that was so prom inent in M odel 2B. It treats citizens as simply political consumers, and political society as simply a market-like relation between them and the suppliers o f political commodities. From this sum m ary account o f M odel 3 and the assumptions on which it is based, we can see that it offers itself as a state ment o f w hat the prevailing system actually is and as an ex planation, in terms o f m arket principles, o f w hy it works as

Model 3:

Equilibrium Democracy

81

w ell as it does. W e have noticed also that the explanation easily merges into justification. Before w e look more closely at the adequacy o f M odel 3, as description, explanation, and justification, we should notice that there are differences o f emphasis, if not o f substance, between some o f its leading exponents. T h e differences are not so m uch in the descriptions they give as in the extent of the claims m ade for the system. T h e y all see the citizens as political consumers, with very diverse wants and demands. T h e y all see com petition between politicians for the citizens votes as the motor o f the system. T h e y all find that this m echanism does produce a stable equilibrium . T h ey differ somewhat in their views o f the extent to which it also provides some measure o f political consumers sovereignty. Schum peter gives the system a rather low rating on this. He finds that the voters have most o f their choices m ade for them ,4 and that the pressures they can bring to bear on the governm ent between election times are not very effective. O th er analysts are more optimistic about the effectiveness o f consumers preferences. D ahl finds somewhat defective in Schum peters otherwise excellent analysis the view that elec tions and interelection activity are o f trivial im portance in determ ining policy . But the most D ahl claims for these activi ties is that they are crucial processes for insuring that political leaders w ill be somewhat responsive to the preferences o f some ordinary citizens ;5 or that W ith all its defects, [the A m erican political system] does nonetheless provide a high probability that any active and legitim ate group will make itself heard effectively at some stage in the process o f decision . . . it appears to be a relatively efficient system for reinforcing agreem ent, encouraging m oderation, and m aintaining social peace in a restless and im m oderate people operating a gigantic, powerful, diversified, and incredibly com plex society.6 In a later work D ah l rates the responsiveness o f the system a little higher: most citizens . . . possess a m oderate degree o f indirect influ ence, for elected officials keep the real or im agined preferences
4 See below, at nn. 23 and 24. 5 Preface to Democratic Theory, p. 131. 6 Ibid., pp. 150-1.

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

o f constituents constantly in mind in deciding w hat policies to adopt or reject.7 Still higher claims are sometimes m ade. For instance, the influential study Voting, by Berelson, Lazarsfeld, and M cPhee, after dem onstrating that in the A m erican political system the citizens are not at all like the rational citizens o f M odel 2, and pointing out that nevertheless the system does w ork (that is, has not disintegrated into either dictatorship or civil w ar), and often works w ith distinction,8 concluded that it must have hidden merit. Som ething like the invisible hand celebrated by A dam Sm ith must be at work.
I f the d em ocratic system depended solely on the qualification s o f the in d iv id u a l voter, then it seems rem arkab le th at d em ocracy has survived through the centuries. A fter exam in in g the d etailed d ata on how in d ivid uals m isperceive p olitical reality, or respond to irrel evan t social influences, one w onders how a d em ocracy ever solves its p olitical problem s. B ut w h en one considers the d a ta in a b road er perspective how huge sections o f the society a d ap t to p o litical conditions affectin g them or how the p o litical system adjusts itself to ch an gin g conditions over lon g periods o f tim e he can not fail to be im pressed w ith the total results. W h ere the ratio n al citizen seems to a b d icate, nevertheless angels seem to trea d .9

This echo o f A dam Sm ith is not surprising, for Berelson et al. do tend to attribute the success of M odel 3 to its market-ltke n a tu re : nothing less than the m agic o f the m arket can explain the success o f the system, and nothing more is needed to justify it,
THE ADEQUACY OF MO D E L 3

W e have noticed that M odel 3 presents itself as description, as explanation, and sometimes as justification, o f the actual political system in W estern dem ocracies. In asking now how adequate the m odel is on each count w e must acknowledge that there is some difficulty in treating the three counts separ ately, since they often merge into each other. Things m ay be left out o f the descriptions because an explanatory fram ework
7 Who Governs?, p. 164. 8 Berelson, Lazarsfeld, and McPhee: Voting, p. 312. s Ibid., p. 311.

Model 3:

Equilibrium Democracy

83

already adopted treats them as o f little or no im portance. O r em pirical descriptive findings about, for instance, citizens ap ath y or voters misinformation, m ay require the theorists to cast about for a principle o f explanation to account for the fact that the system works at all. A nd principles o f explanation, as we have seen, easily shade into justifications. O ne m ay still usefully separate the descriptive from the justificatory aspect, w ithout hoping to treat the explanatory aspect entirely separ ately. (i) Descriptive adequacy As description o f the actual system now prevailing in W estern liberal-dem ocratic nations, M odel 3 must be ad ju dged substantially accurate. It is clearly a m uch more realis tic statement than any provided by M odel 2. It has been built up by careful and extensive em pirical investigations by highly com petent scholars. Th ere is no reason to doubt their findings, w hich depart so drastically from M odel 2. T h e y m ay have left some things out o f account, for instance the ability o f the elites to decide w hat issues m ay be put to the voters at all and w hat are non-issues,10 but such omissions m ay be thought to affect the m odels explanatory or justificatory adequacy more than its descriptive adequacy. Som e adjustm ent m ay be needed to make their findings, w hich are pre-em inently based on researches into the system in the U nited States, applicable to W estern Europe: the cur rent strength o f the Com m unist Party in France and Italy, for instance, suggests that in those countries party divisions are more polarized along class lines than the A m erican pluralistic m odel allows for. But that can probably be accom m odated w ithout m uch difficulty. T h e substantial accuracy o f M odel 3 as description m ay be attributed to the substantial accuracy o f its assumptions about current W estern m an and society: as long as we have m arket m an and m arket society, they can be expec ted to operate as described in M odel 3.
10 As argued by Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz: Tw o Faces of Power, American Political Science Review, L V I, 4 (December J962); reprinted in Charles A. M cC o y and John Playford (eds.): Apolitical Politics, a Critique o f Behavioralism, New York, 1967.

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(ii) Explanatory adequacy E xplanatory principles, intended to show w hy the system works at all or works as well as it does, grow out o f (and grow into) the descriptive findings. But they also merge so generally into justifications o f the system that it w ill be convenient to consider explanatory and justificatory adequacy together. In deed, most o f the recent w riting criticizing M odel 3 seems to have begun from dissatisfaction w ith its justificatory claims and gone on to challenge its explanatory or even its descriptive adequacy. I shall not attem pt to sum marize all the critical analyses o f M odel 3 that have been m ade in the last decade or so by political scientists o f w hat m ay be called a radical liberal-dem ocratic persuasion,11 but simply cite their w ork as evidence o f increasing dissatisfaction w ith the model am ong the political science com m unity. I shall then go on to inquire, in the light o f the analysis already m ade o f the failure o f M odels 1 and 2, w hy M odel 3 has begun to appear so unsatis factory. (iii) Justificatory adequacy It m ay be w ell to begin by considering the claim generally m ade or im plied by exponents o f M o d el 3 that their model is not justificatory at all, but only descriptive and explanatory. This claim really cannot be accepted, although Schum peter, who scarcely bothered to make such a claim , m ight be justified in m aking it. But the later and more substantial exponents o f M odel 3 all im ply, or even state, a justification at one or both o f two levels. T h e y are saying, at the least, that the system is, w ith all its adm itted imperfections, the only one that can do the jo b , or the one that can do it best. T h ey are the realists. T h a t is w hat people are like, so this is the best they are capable of. G enerally, even m ore is claim ed that the system produces optim um equilibrium and some measure o f citizen consumers sovereignty. These are taken to be self-evidently good, so the
11 e.g. Peter Bachxach: The Theory o f Democratic Elitism , a Critique, Boston and Toronto, 1967; M cC oy and Playford, op. cit.; William Connolly (ed.): The Bias o f Pluralism, New York, 1969; Henry Kariel (ed.): Frontiers o f Democratic Theory, New York, 1970; Carole Pateman: Participation and Democratic Theory, Cambridge, 1970.

Model 3:

Equilibrium Democracy

85

system w hich provides them is taken to be justified by the very dem onstration that it does provide them. Both o f the realists* claims are thus, at least im plicitly, justificatory. H ow adequate are they? T h e first claim amounts to saying that M odel 3 is best be cause anything loftier is unworkable. T h e advocates o f M odel 3 contrast it w ith w hat they usually call the classical m odel o f dem ocracy, w hich generally turns out to be a confused m ix ture o f a pre-industrial m odel (Rousseaus or Jeffersons), and our M odels 1 and 2. It w ould take too long a digression to try to sort out those confusions,12 especially as different pro ponents o f M odel 3 set up their classical straw men rather differently. Schum peter, for instance, makes his m ain target the over-rationalistic assumptions he finds in Rousseau and in Bentham s M odel 1: average men, he holds, are not capable o f form ing the rational judgem ents he thinks required by those m odels; therefore those models are hopeless.13 Others have been more concerned to deflate the m oral pretensions o f M odel 2, while accepting the M odel 1 view o f man as essen tially a rational m axim izing calculator: it is because men are on the whole such m axim izing calculators that most o f them m ay well decide not to spend m uch time or energy in political participation, thus invalidating M odel 2.14
12 T h e extent of the confusion has been pointedly remarked by Carole Pateman: the notion of a classical theory of democracy is a myth (Participation and Democratic Theory, p. 17). 13 A similar although less extravagant position is taken by Berelson (Berelson, Lazarsfeld, and McPhee: Voting, p. 322). 14 Gf. Robert Dahls argument (After the Revolution ? Authority in a Good Society, New Haven and London, 1970, pp. 40-56) that a reasonable man will* and in actual practice everyone does apply, to any system of authori ty, the Criterion of Economy, which is to balance the cost of political participation against the expected benefit, the cost being the forgone uses of his time and energy. This notion of participation .as nothing but a cost (which it is, if everyone is seen as merely a maximizing consumer) over looks the possible value of participation in enhancing the participants understanding of his own position and in giving him a greater sense of purpose and greater awareness of community. Cf. Bachrach: Interest, Participation, and Democratic Theory, in J. R. Pennock and J. W. Chapman (eds.): Participation in Politics (Nomos X V I) , New York, 1973, pp. 49-52.

86

The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

Both these views as to w hy M odel 3 is more realistic, more w orkable, and so better5 than any previous model, rest ulti , m ately on an unverifiable assumption that the political cap a bilities o f the average person in a modern m arket society are a fixed datum , or at least are unlikely to change in our time. O ne m ight argue, against the validity o f that assumption, that it depends on a m odel o f man w hich cam e to prevail only w ith the emergence or predom inance o f the capitalist m arket society.15 But even if it is granted that that model o f m an is so tim e-bound and culture-bound, we do not know w hether or w hen it m ay be superseded. So, although the assumption can not be verified, neither can it be absolutely falsified. H ence the justificatory adequacy o f the first claim must be left u n d ecid ed : we can only return the Scottish verdict N ot Proven. W hat o f the second c la im : that, on the analogy o f the m arket in the econom ic system, the com petitive elite party system brings about an optim um equilibrium o f the supply and de m and for political goods, and provides some measure o f citizen consumer sovereignty? Prima facie, optim um equilibrium and citizen consumer sovereignty are good in themselves. T o most people who live in advanced and relatively stable societies, equilibrium sounds better than disequilibrium ; and opti m um is by definition best; so w hat could be better than optim um equilibrium ? A nd citizen consumer sovereignty is a phrase loaded w ith good words. So i f M odel 3 does provide these, surely we m ight conclude that it is a pretty good kind o f dem ocracy. But this does not follow. A ll that follows is that it is a pretty good kind o f a m arket. But a m arket is not neces sarily dem ocratic. I w ant now to show that the M odel 3 political m arket sys tem is not nearly as dem ocratic as it is made out to b e : that the equilibrium it produces is an equilibrium in inequality; that the consumer sovereignty it claims to provide is to a large extent an illusion; and that, to the extent that the consumer sovereignty is real, it is a contradiction o f the central dem o cratic tenet o f equality o f individual entitlem ent to the use and enjoym ent o f ones capacities. T h e claims for optim um equi15 Cf. Kari Polanyi: The Great Transformation, New York, 1944, and my Democratic Theory, Essay I.

Model j:

Equilibrium Democracy

87

librium and consumer sovereignty are virtually the same claim two sides o f the same coin and so m ay be treated together as a single claim. T h e claim fails on two counts. First, in so far as the political m arket system, on the analogy o f the econom ic m arket, is com petitive enough to produce the optim um supply and distribution o f political goods, optim um in relation to the de mands, w hat it does is to register and respond to w hat econo mists call the effective dem and, that is, the demands that have purchasing power to back them. In the econom ic m arket this means simply money, no m atter whether the money has been acquired by an output o f its possessors energy or in some other way. In the political m arket the purchasing power is to a large extent, b ut not entirely, m oney the money needed to support a party or a candidate in an election cam paign, to organize a pressure group, or to buy space or time in the mass m edia (or to own some o f the mass m edia). But political purchasing power includes also direct expenditure o f energy in cam paign ing, organizing, and participating in other ways in the political process. In so far as the political purchasing power is money, we can scarcely say that the equilibrating process is dem ocratic in any society, like ours, in w hich there is substantial inequality o f w ealth and o f chances o f acquiring wealth. W e m ay still call it consumer sovereignty if we wish. But the sovereignty o f an aggregate o f such unequal consumers is not evidently demo cratic. In so far as the political purchasing power is direct expendi ture o f energy the case seems better. W hat could be fairer than a return proportional to the input o f political energy? Citizens who are apathetic should surely not expect as m uch return as those who are m ore active. This would be a fair principle, con sistent w ith dem ocratic equality, if the apath y were an in dependent datum , that is, if the apathy were in each case the outcom e o f a m axim izing decision by the individual, balancing the most profitable uses o f his time and energy as between political participation and other things, and i f every individual could expect that each hour he gave to politics would have the same value, the same purchasing pow er in the political market,

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

as any other persons. But this is just w hat it cannot have. Those whose education and occupation make it more difficult for them than for the others to acquire and m arshal and w eigh the inform ation needed for effective participation are clearly at a disadvantage: an hour o f tl^eir time devoted to political participation w ill not have as m uch effect as an hour o f one o f the others. T h e y know this, hpnce they are apathetic. Social inequality thus creates political apathy. A p ath y is not an independent datum . O ver and above this, the political system o f M odel 3 contri butes directly to apathy. As we saw in the preceding chapter, the functions w hich a party system in an unequal society w ith mass franchise must perform require a blurring o f issues and a dim inution o f the responsibility o f governm ents to electorates, both o f w hich reduce the incentive o f the voters to exert them selves in m aking a choice. A frequent reason for non-voting is the feeling that there is no real choice. Proponents o f M odel 3 have made m uch o f the phenom enon o f voter apathy, though they have not usually traced it to the causes I have just mentioned. T h e y do, however, often point out that successful operation o f M odel 3 requires something like the present levels o f a p a th y : greater participation would en danger the stability o f the system.16 T he accuracy o f this general proposition is never demonstrated, but the fact that it is asserted at all is revealing: in the realism o f M odel 3, some good is to be found even in something as unprom ising as widespread apathy. W e m ay prefer to think that a political system w hich requires and encourages apathy is not doing a very brisk jo b o f optim izing, especially in view o f the class differential in ap ath y.17 T o sum up, then, on the first count, w e find that in so far as
16 e.g. Berelson et a l.: Voting, ch. 14; W. H. Morris-Jones: In Defence of Apathy, Political Studies II {1954), pp. 25-37; Seymour Martin Lipset: Political M an, New York, i960, pp. 14-16 ; Lester W. Milbrath: Political Participation, Chicago, 1965, ch. 6. 17 That there is a class differential in political participation is the un animous conclusion of voting studies. For a thorough exploration of this and other dimensions of apathy, see Sidney Verba and Norman H. Nie: Participation in America, Political Democracy and Social Equality, New York, 1972.

Model 3:

Equilibrium Democracy

89

the political m arket system is com petitive enough to do the job o f equilibrating the supply o f and dem and for political goods in so far, that is, as it does actually respond to consumer de mands it measures and responds to demands which are very unequally effective. Some demands are more effective than others because, where the dem and is expressed in human energy input, one persons energy inp ut cannot get the same return per unit as another persons. A nd the class o f political demands that have the most m oney to back them is largely the same as the class o f those that have the larger p ay-off per unit o f hum an energy input. In both cases it is the demands o f the higher socio-economic classes w hich are the most effective. So the lower classes are apathetic. In short, the equilibrium and the consumer sovereignty, in so far as M odel 3 does provide them, are far from dem ocratic.18 T h e second count on w hich the claim to provide a dem o cratic consumer sovereignty fails is sim ply that M odel 3 does not provide a significant am ount o f consumer sovereignty. T he M odel 3 political m arket is far from fully com petitive. For it is, to use an economists term, oligopolistic. T h a t is, there are only a few sellers, a few suppliers o f political goods, in other words only a few political parties: in the most favoured variant o f M odel 3 there are only two effective parties, w ith a possibility o f one or two more. W here there are so few sellers, they need not and do not respond to the buyers demands as they must do in a fully com petitive system. T h e y can set prices and set the range o f goods that will be offered. M ore than that, they can, to a con siderable extent, create the demand. In an oligopolistic market, the dem and is not autonomous, not an independent datum. This effect o f oligopoly, w hich is a comm onplace o f econo mic theory, has been surprisingly little noticed by the political theorists o f M odel 3. Even Schum peter, who o f all the formulators o f M odel 3 has econom ic parallels most in m ind, and who makes quite a point o f the w ay that oligopoly and im per fect com petition require a substantial revision o f the classical
18 Dahl, who has explored the implications of Model 3 more fully than most of its exponents, particularly in his After the Revolution (1970), is there explicit about the distorting effect of class inequality and sees its reduction as a prerequisite of genuine democracy.

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The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

can provide affluence indefinitely), and as long as we continue to accept the cold-war view that the only alternative to M odel 3 is a w holly non-liberal totalitarian state. Putting this in a slightly different w ay, we m ight say that a system o f com peting Elites w ith a low level o f citizen participation is required in an unequal society, most o f whose members think o f themselves as m axim izing consumers. This requirem ent took on a new urgency w ith the cata strophic econom ic depression o f the early 1930s in all the W estern nations. T h e need for the state to intervene in the econom y along K eynesian lines, in order to sustain the capital ist order, m eant an increased need to remove political decisions from any dem ocratic responsiveness: only the experts, whose reasoning was assumed to be beyond the comprehension o f the voters, could save the system. T h e experts advice was followed, and it did save the system for the next three or four decades. M odel 3 was, therefore, from its very beginnings in the 1940s, understandably aligned against dem ocratic participation. But w ith increasing disillusionment with the results o f this stateregulated capitalism in the 1960s and 70$, the adequacy o f M odel 3 is increasingly questioned. T h e fact that doubts are increasingly being raised about the adequacy o f this system cannot, unfortunately, be taken as evidence that we have m oved far enough aw ay from in equality, and from the consciousness o f ourselves as essentially consumers, to make a new political model possible. T h e most we can do is to look at the problems o f m oving to a new model, and exam ine possible solutions.

V
Model 4: Participatory Democracy

THE

RI S E

OF T H E

IDEA

T o call participatory dem ocracy a model at all, let alone a m odel o f liberal dem ocracy, is perhaps to yield too m uch to a liking for sym metry. Participatory dem ocracy is certainly not a model as solid or specific as those we have been exam ining. It began as a slogan o f the N ew Left student movements o f the 1960s. It spread into the w orking class in the 1960s and 70s, no doubt as an offshoot o f the grow ing job-dissatisfaction among both blue- and w hite-collar workers and the more widespread feeling o f alienation, w hich then becam e such fashionable sub jects for sociologists, m anagem ent experts, governm ent com missions o f inquiry, and popular journalists. O ne manifestation o f this new spirit was the rise o f movements for workers control in industry. In the same decades, the idea that there should be substantial citizen participation in government decision-m aking spread so w idely that national governments began enrolling themselves, at least verbally, under the participatory banner, and some even initiated programm es em bodying extensive citizen participation.1 It appears that the hope o f a more par ticipatory society and system o f governm ent has come to stay. W e need not attem pt to review the voluminous recent litera ture on participation in various spheres o f society. O u r concern
1 e.g. the Community Action Programs inaugurated by the United States federal government in 1964, which called for maximum feasible participation o f residents of the areas and members of the groups served. For a critical account of this, see Citizen Participation in Emerging Social Institutions by Howard I. Kalodner, in Participation in Politics, as cited in n. 3, below.

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

here is only w ith the prospects o f a more participatory system o f governm ent for W estern liberal-dem ocratic nations. C an liberal-dem ocratic governm ent be m ade more participatory, and if so, how ? T h is question has not yet had as m uch attention as it deserves. T h e debate am ong political theorists had to be at the beginning m ainly concerned w ith the prior question: is more citizen participation desirable?2 T h e exponents o f M odel 3, as w e have seen, said no. T h a t debate is not yet ended.3 For our purposes, however, that debate m ay be foreclosed. It is sufficient to say that in view o f the unquestioned class differential in political participation in the present system, and assuming that that differential is both the effect and the con tinuing cause o f the inability o f those in the lower strata either to articulate their wants or to make their demands effective, then nothing as unparticipatory as the apathetic equilibrium o f M odel 3 measures up to the ethical requirem ents o f dem o cracy. This is not to say that a more participatory system w ould o f itself remove all the inequities o f our society. It is only to say that low participation and social inequity are so bound up w ith each other that a more equitable and hum ane society requires a more participatory political system. T h e difficult question, w hether either a change in the politi cal system or a change in the society is a prerequisite o f the other, will occupy us largely in the next section o f this chapter. In the m eantim e I shall assume that something more partici patory than our present system is desirable. T h e rem aining question is w hether it is possible.

IS M O R E

PARTICIPATION

NOW POSSIBLE?

(i) The problem o f size It is not m uch use simply celebrating the dem ocratic quality
2 This has been the main concern of the radical liberal critics of Model 3 (as cited in ch. IV , p, 84, n. 11, and in n. 3, below. 3 S e t Participation in Politics (Nomos X V I) (eds. J. R. Pennock a n d j. W. Chapman), New York, 1975. Most of the contributors to this volume, which is based on papers given at the 1971 annual meeting of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, are in favour of more participa tion, but there is a spirited defence, by M. B, E. Smith, of the opposite position.

Model 4:

Participatory Democracy

95

o f life and o f decision-m aking (that is, o f governm ent) that can be had in contem porary communes or N ew England townmeetings or that was had in ancient city-states. T h ere m ay be a lot to learn about the quality o f dem ocracy by exam ining these face-to-face societies, but that will not show us how a partici patory dem ocracy could operate in a m odem nation o f twenty m illion or two hundred m illion people. It seems clear that, at the national level, there w ill have to be some kind o f repre sentative system, not com pletely direct democracy'. T h e idea that recent and expected advances in com puter technology and telecom m unications w ill make it possible to achieve direct dem ocracy at the required m illion-fold level is attractive not only to technologists but also to social theorists and political philosophers.4 But it does not pay enough atten tion to an inescapable requirem ent o f any decision-making process: som ebody must form ulate the questions. N o doubt something could be done w ith two-way television to draw more people into more active political discussion. And no doubt it is technically feasible to put in every living-room or, to cover the whole population, beside every bed a com puter console with Yes/No buttons, or buttons for Agree/ Disagree/Dont K n ow , or for Strongly A pprove/M ildly A p prove/Dont C are/M ildly Disapprove/Strongly Disapprove, or for preferential multiple choices. But it seems inevitable that some governm ent body w ould have to decide what questions would be asked: this could scarcely be left to private bodies. T h ere m ight indeed be a provision that some stated number o f citizens have the right to propose questions w hich must then be put electronically to the whole electorate. But even with such a provision, most o f the questions that would need to be asked in our present com plex societies could scarcely be form u lated by citizen groups specifically enough for the answers to give a governm ent a clear directive. Nor- can the ordinary citizen be expected to respond to the sort o f questions that w ould be required to give a clear directive. T h e questions would have to be as intricate as, for instance, w hat per cent
4 See Michael Rossman: On Learning and Social Change, New York, 1972, pp. 257-8; and Robert Paul Wolff: In Defense o f Anarchism, New York, 1970, pp. 34-7.

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The Life and Times o f Liberal Democracy

unem ploym ent rate would you accept in order to reduce the rate o f inflation by x per cent?, or w hat increase in the rate o f (a) income tax, (b) sales and excise taxes, (c) other taxes (specify which)-* would you accept in order to increase by blank per cent (fill in [punch in] the blank), the level o f (1) old-age pensions, (2) health services, (3) other social services (specify w hich), (4) any other benefits (specify w hich )? Thus even if there were provision for such a scheme o f popular initiative, governments would still have to make a lot o f the real decisions. M oreover, unless there were, somewhere in the system, a body whose duty was to reconcile inconsistent demands pre sented by the buttons, the system would soon break down. I f such a system were to be attem pted in anything like our pres ent society there would almost certainly be inconsistent de mands. People the same people would, for instance, very likely dem and a reduction o f unem ploym ent at the same time as they were dem anding a reduction o f inflation, or an increase in governm ent expenditures along w ith a decrease in taxes. A nd o f course different people people w ith opposed interests, such as the presently privileged and the unprivileged would also present incom patible dem ands.The com puter could easily deal w ith the latter incom patibilities by ascertaining the m ajority position, but it could not sort out the former. T o avoid the need for a body to adjust such incom patible demands to each other the questions would have to be fram ed in a w ay that would require o f each voter a degree o f sophistication impossible to expect. > N or w ould the situation be any better in any foreseeable future society. It is true that the sort o f questions just m en tioned, w hich are about the distribution o f econom ic costs and econom ic benefits am ong different sections o f the population, m ay be expected to become less acute in the measure that m aterial scarcity becomes less pressing. But even if they were to disappear as internal problems in the econom ically most advanced societies, they w ould reappear there as external problem s: for instance, how m uch and w hat kind o f aid should the advanced countries afford to the underdeveloped ones? M oreover, another range o f questions would arise internally,

Model 4:

Participatory Democracy

97

having to do not with distribution but w ith production in the broadest sense, that is, w ith the uses to be m ade o f the societys whole stock o f energy and resources, and the encouragem ent or discouragem ent o f further econom ic grow th and population growth. A nd beyond that there would be such questions as the extent to w hich the society should promote or should keep its hands o ff the cultural and educational pursuits o f the people. Such questions, even in the most favourable circumstances im aginable, will require repeated reformulation. A n d ques tions o f this sort do not readily lend themselves to form ulation by popular initiative. T h eir form ulation would have to be entrusted to a. governm ental body. It m ight still be argued that even if it is impossible to leave the form ulation o f all policy questions to popular initiative, at least the very broadest sort o f policy could be left to it. G ranted that the m any hundreds o f policy decisions that are now made every year by governments and legislatures would still have to be m ade by them, it m ight be urged that those decisions should be required to conform to the results o f referenda on the very broadest questions. But it is difficult to see how most o f the broadest questions could be left to form ulation by popular initiative. Popular initiative could certainly form ulate clear questions on certain single issues, for instance, capital punish m ent or legalization o f m arijuana or o f abortion on demandpr: issues on w hich the response required is simply yes or no. But for the reasons given above, popular initiative could not formu~ late adegu^ite questions on the great interrelated issues o f over all social and econom ic policy. T h a t would have to be left to some organ o f governm ent. A n d unless that organ were either an elected body or responsible to an elected body, and thus at some remove responsible to the electorate, such a system o f continual referenda w ould not really be dem ocratic: worse, by giving the appearance o f being dem ocratic, the system would conceal the real location o f power and would thus enable dem ocratic5 governm ents to be more autocratic than they are now. W e cannot do w ithout elected politicians. W e must rely, though w e need not rely exclusively, on indirect dem ocracy. T h e problem is to m ake the elected politicians responsible. T he

g8

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

e le c tr o n ic c o n s o le b esid e e v e r y b e d c a n n o t d o th a t. E le c tr o n ic te c h n o lo g y , th e n , c a n n o t g iv e us d ir e c t d e m o c r a c y .

So the problem o f participatory dem ocracy on a mass scale seems intractable. It is intractable if we simply try. to draw m echanical blue-prints o f the proposed political system w ith out paying attention to the changes in society, and in peoples consciousness o f themselves, w hich a little thought will show must precede or accom pany the attainm ent o f anything like participatory dem ocracy. I w ant to suggest now that the cen tral problem is not how a participatory dem ocracy w ould operate but how we could move towards it. (ii) A vicious circle and possible loopholes I begin w ith a general proposition: the. m ain problem about participatory dem ocracy is not how to run it but how to reach it. For it seems likely that if we can reach it, or reach any sub stantial instalm ent o f it, our w ay along the road to reaching it w ill have m ade us capable o f running it, or at least less incap able than w e now are. H aving announced this proposition, I must im m ediately qualify it. T h e failures so far to reach really participatory dem ocracy in countries where that has been a conscious goal, for instance C zechoslovakia in the years up to 1968 and m any o f the T h ird W orld countries, dem and some reservations about such a proposition. For in both those cases, a good deal o f the road had already been tra velled : I m ean the road aw ay from capitalist class-division and bourgeois ideology towards, in the one case, a M arxist hum anism and, in the other, a Rousseauan concept o f a society em bodying a general will, and in both cases towards a stronger sense o f com m unity than we have. A nd, o f course, the w hole o f the road had there been travelled aw ay from that m irror-im age o f the oligopolistic capitalist m arket system : I m ean, the oligopolistic competition o f politi cal parties w hich prevails w ith us, w hich is not only not very participatory, but is recom m ended, by most current liberaldem ocratic theorists, as quintessentially non-participatory. So there still are difficulties in reaching participatory dem o cracy, even when m uch o f the road has been travelled, i.e. when some o f the obvious prerequisite changes in society and

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ideology have taken place. H owever, the roads they have travelled in such countries as I have just mentioned are signifi can tly different from the road we w ould have to travel to come near to participatory dem ocracy. For I assume that our road in the W estern liberal dem ocracies is not likely to be via com munist revolution; nor, obviously, w ill it be via revolutions o f national independence beset by all the problems o f under developm ent and low productivity that have faced the T h ird W orld countries. It therefore seems w orth inquiring w hat road it m ay be possible for any o f the W estern liberal democracies to travel, and whether, or to w hat extent, m oving along that road could m ake us capable o f operating a system substantially more p articipatory than our present one. T h is becomes the question: w hat roadblocks have to be removed, i.e. w hat changes in our present society and the now prevailing ideology are pre requisite or co-requisite conditions for reaching a participatory dem ocracy? I f m y earlier analysis is at all valid, the present nonparticipatory or scarcely participatory political system o f M odel 3 does fit an unequal society o f conflicting consumers and appropriators: indeed, nothing but that system, w ith its com peting political elites and voter apathy, seems com petent to hold such a society together. I f that is so, two pre requisites for the emergence of a M odel 4 are fairly clearly indicated. O n e is a change in peoples consciousness (or unconscious ness), from seeing themselves and acting as essentially con sumers to seeing themselves and acting as exerters and enjoyers o f the exertion and developm ent o f their ow n capacities. This is requisite not only to the emergence but also to the operation o f a participatory dem ocracy. For the latter self-image brings w ith it a sense o f com m unity w hich the form er does not. O ne can acquire and consume by oneself, for ones own satisfaction or to show ones superiority to others: this does not require or foster a sense o f com m unity; whereas the enjoym ent and developm ent o f ones capacities is to be done for the most part in conjunction w ith others, in some relation o f com m unity. A nd it wjill not be doubted that the operation o f a participatory

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dem ocracy would require a stronger sense o f com m unity than now prevails. T h e other prerequisite is a great reduction o f the present social and econom ic inequality, since that inequality, as I have argued, requires a non-participatory party system to hold the society together. A nd as long as inequality is accepted, the nonparticipatory political system is likely also to be accepted by all those in all classes who prefer stability to the prospect o f com plete social breakdown. N ow if these two changes in society the replacem ent o f the im age o f m an as consumer, and a great reduction o f social and economic inequality are prerequisites o f participatory dem o cracy, we seem to be caught in a vicious circle. For it is un likely that either o f these prerequisite changes could be effected w ithout a great deal more dem ocratic participation than there is now. T h e reduction o f social and econom ic inequality is unlikely w ithout strong dem ocratic action. A nd it w ould seem, whether we follow M ill or M arx, that only through actual involvem ent in jo in t political action can people transcend their consciousness o f themselves as consumers and appropriators. H ence the vicious c ircle : we cannot achieve m ore dem o cratic participation w ithout a prior change in social inequality and in consciousness, but we cannot achieve the changes in social inequality and consciousness w ithout a prior increase in dem ocratic participation. Is there any w ay out? I think there m ay be, though in our affluent capitalist societies it is unlikely to follow the pattern proposed or expected in the nineteenth century either by M arx or by M ill. M arx expected the developm ent o f capitalism to lead to a sharpening o f class consciousness, w hich would lead to various kinds o f working-class political action, w hich w ould further increase the class consciousness o f the w orking class and turn it into revolutionary consciousness and revolutionary organization. This w ould be followed by a revolutionary take over o f power b y the w orking class, w hich power would be consolidated by a period o f dictatorship o f the proletariat, w hich would break down the social and econom ic inequality and replace m an as m axim izing consumer b y m an as exerter and developer o f his hum an capacities. W hatever we m ay

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think o f the probability o f this sequence once it had started, it does require increasing class consciousness to start it, and there is little evidence o f this in prosperous W estern societies today, where it has generally declined since M a rx s d a y .5 Joh n Stuart M ills w ay out does not seem very hopeful either. H e counted on two things. First, the broadening o f the franchise would lead to m ore widespread political participation w hich would in turn make people capable o f still more political participation and would contribute to a change in conscious ness. Secondly, the owner/worker relation would change with the spread o f producers co-ops: to the extent that they re placed the standard capitalist relation, both consciousness and inequality would be changed. But the broadening o f the fran chise did not have the result M ill hoped for, nor has the capitalist relation between owner and worker changed in the w ay required. So neither M a rx s nor M ills w ay seems a w ay out o f our vicious circle. But there is one insight com m on to both o f them that we m ight w ell follow. Both assumed that changes in the two factors w hich abstractly seem to be prerequisites o f each other the am ount o f political participation on the one hand, and the prevailing inequality and the im age o f man as infinite consumer and appropriator on the other w ould come stage by stage and reciprocally, an incom plete change in one leading to some change in the other, leading to more change in the first, and so on. Even M a rx s scenario, including as it did revolutionary change at one point, called for this reciprocal increm ental change both before and after the revolution. W e also m ay surely assume, in looking at our vicious circle, that we neednt expect one o f the changes to be complete before the other can begin. So we m ay look for loopholes anywhere in the circle, that is, for changes already visible or in prospect either in the amount o f dem ocratic participation or in social inequality or consumer consciousness. I f we find changes w hich are not only already perceptible but which are attributable to forces or circum stances w hich are lik ely to go on operating w ith cum ulative
5 There are some signs that class consciousness is re-emerging (see below, p. 106), but not that it is becoming a revolutionary consciousness.

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effect, then we can have some hope o f a break-through. A nd if the changes are o f a sort that encourages reciprocal changes in the other factors, so m uch the better. A re there any loopholes w hich come up to these specifica tions? L e t us start from the assumption least favourable to our search, the assumption that most o f us are, willy-nilly, m axi m izing calculators o f our own benefit, m aking a cost/benefit analysis o f everything, however vaguely we make it; and that most o f us consciously or unconsciously see ourselves as essen tially infinite consumers. From these assumptions the vicious circle appears to follow d ire ctly : most people w ill support, or not do m uch to change, a system w hich produces affluence, w hich continually increases the Gross N ational Product, and w hich also produces political apathy. This makes a pretty strong vicious circle. But there are now some visible loopholes, I shall draw attention to three o f them. (i ) M ore and more people, in the capacity w e have attri buted to them all, nam ely as cost/benefit calculators, are recon sidering the cost/benefit ratio o f our societys worship o f expansion o f the G N P . T h e y still see the benefits o f economic grow th, but they are now beginning to see some costs they hadn t counted before. T h e most obvious o f these are the costs o f air, water, and earth pollution. These are costs largely in terms o f the quality o f life. Is it too m uch to suggest that this awareness o f quality is a first step aw ay from being satisfied with quantity, and so a first step aw ay from seeing ourselves as ' infinite consumers, towards valuing our ability to exert our energies and capacities in a decent environment? Perhaps it is too much. But at any rate the growing consciousness o f these costs weakens the unthinking acceptance o f the G N P as the criterion o f social good. O th er costs o f econom ic growth, notably the extravagant depletion o f natural resources and the likelihood o f irreversible ecological dam age, are also increasingly being noticed. A w are ness o f the costs o f econom ic grow th takes people beyond sheer consumer consciousness. It can be expected to set up some consciousness o f a public interest that is not looked after either by the private interest o f each consumer or by the com petition o f political elites.

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(2) There is an increasing awareness o f the costs o f political apathy, and, closely related to this, a grow ing awareness, w ith in the industrial w orking class, o f the inadequacy o f traditional and routine forms o f industrial action. It is com ing to be seen that citizens and workers5 non-participation, or low partici pation, or participation only in routine channels, allows the concentration o f corporate power to dom inate our neighbour hoods, our jobs, our security, and the quality o f life at work and at home. T w o examples o f this new awareness m ay be given. (a) T h e one that is most evident, at least in N orth A m erican cities, w hich have hitherto been notoriously careless o f hum an values, is the rise o f neighbourhood and com m unity m ove ments and associations form ed to exert pressure to preserve or enhance those values against the operations o f w hat m ay be called the urban com m ercial-political complex. Such m ove ments have sprung up, with substantial effect, against express ways, against property developers, against inner-city decay, for better schools and day-care centres in the inner city, and so on. It is true that they have generally begun as, and some times rem ained, single-issue affairs. A n d they do not usually seek to replace, but only to put new pressures on, the formal m unicipal political structure.6 M ost o f them do not, therefore, by themselves constitute a significant breakaw ay from the system o f com peting elites. But they do attract to active political participation m any, especially o f the lower socio econom ic strata, who had previously been most politically apathetic. (b) Less noticeable, but probably in the long run more im portant, are the movements for dem ocratic participation in decision-m aking at the w orkplace.These m ovements have not yet m ade decisive strides in any o f the capitalist democracies, but pressure for some degrees o f workers1 control at the shopfloor level and even at the level o f the firm is increasing, and
6 Sometimes they do seek to revise the formal structure, as in the demands for community control of schools or police and for greater community participation in city planning and intelligence operations, as mentioned by John Ladd: The Ethics of Participation, in J. R. Pennock and J. W. Chapman, op. cit., pp. 99, 102.

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examples o f it actually in operation are promising.7 T h e im portance o f this, w hether the decisions are only about working conditions and planning the w ay the w ork is to be arranged at the shop-floor level, or w hether it goes as far as participation in policy decisions at the level o f the firm, is twofold. In the first place, those who are involved in it are getting experience o f participation in decision-m aking in that side o f their lives their lives at w ork where their concern is greater, or at least more im m ediately and directly felt, than in any other. T h e y can see at first hand just how far their participa tion is effective. T h e forces w hich make for the apathy o f the ordinary person in the form al political process o f a whole nation are absent. U nconcern about the outcom e o f apparently far-off political issues; distance from the results, i f any, o f participation; uncertainty about or disbelief in the effective ness o f their participation; lack o f confidence in their own ability to participate none o f these apply to participation in decisions at the workplace. A n d an appetite for participation, based on the very experience o f it, m ay well carry over from the w orkplace to wider political areas. Those who have proved their competence in the one kind o f participation, and gained confidence there that they can be effective, will be less put o ff by the forces w hich have kept them politically apathetic, m ore able to reason at a greater political distance from results, and more able to see the im portance o f decisions at several removes from their most im m ediate concerns. In the second place, those involved in workers control are participating as producers, not as consumers or appropriators.
7 An effective analysis of these is given by Carole Pateman: Participation and Democratic Theory, Cambridge, 1970, chs. 3 and 4. Other analysts, writing as political activists who want workers control as a path to a fully socialist society, find the present achievement of the workers control movements less encouraging, e.g. Gerry Hunnius, G. D. Garson, and John Case (eds.): Workers' Control, a Reader on Labor and Social Change, New York, 1973; and Ken Coates and Tony Topham (eds.) : Workers' Control, a book o f readings and witnesses fo r workers' control, London, 1970. The pressure for workers control is Jikely to increase since it flows from the increasing, degradation of work which seems inherent in capitalist production: cf. Harry Braverman: Labour and Monopoly Capital: the Degradation o f Work in the Twentieth Century, New York and London, 1974.

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T h e y are in it not to get a higher w age or a greater share o f the product, but to make their productive work more m eaningful to them. I f workers control were merely another move in the scram ble for more pay to take home, or in the continuing effort to m aintain real wages by getting increased money wages and fringe benefits, which is w hat m uch trade union activity is about, it w ould do nothing, just as established trade union practice does nothing, to move men aw ay from their im age o f themselves as consumers and appropriators. But w orkers control is not prim arily about distribution o f in com e: it is about the conditions o f production, and as such it can be expected to have a considerable breakaw ay effect. (3) Th ere is a grow ing doubt about the ability o f corporate capitalism , how ever m uch aided and m anaged by the liberal state, to m eet consumer expectations in the old w ay, i.e. with the present degree o f inequality. There is a real basis for this doubt: the basis is the existence o f a contradiction w ithin capitalism , the results o f w hich cannot be indefinitely avoided. Capitalism reproduces inequality and consumer conscious ness, and must do so to go on operating. But its increasing ab ility to produce goods and leisure has as its obverse its in creasing need to spread them more widely. I f people can t buy the goods, no profit can be m ade b y producing them. This dilem m a can be staved o ff for quite a time by keeping up cold w ar and colonial w ars: as long as the public will support these, then the public is, as consumers, buying by proxy all that can be profitably produced, and is wasting it satisfactorily. This has been going on for a long time now, but there is at least a prospect that it will not be indefinitely supported as normal. I f it is not supported, then the system w ill either have to spread real goods more w idely, w hich will reduce social inequality; or it will break down, and so be unable to continue to repro duce inequality and consumer consciousness. This dilem m a o f capitalism is m uch more intense now than it was in the nineteenth century, when capitalism had the big safety-valves o f continental and colonial expansion. T he dilem m a, in conjunction w ith the changing public awareness o f the cost/benefit ratio o f the system, puts capitalism in a

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rather different position from the one it enjoyed in M ills and M a rx s day. Capitalism in each o f the W estern nations in the 1970s is experiencing econom ic difficulties o f near-crisis proportions. O f these no end is in sight. K eynesian remedies, successful for three decades from the 1930s, have now evidently failed to cope with the underlying contradiction. T h e most obvious symptom o f this failure is the prevalence, simultaneously, o f high rates both o f inflation and o f unem ploym ent two things w hich used to be thought alternatives. For wage-earners, the erosion o f the value o f m oney earnings along with insecurity o f em ploym ent is a serious matter. It has already led to increased working-class m ilitancy in various forms; in some countries, increased political activity and strength o f communist and socialist parties; in others, increased participation in trade union and industrial activity. T h e trade unions w ill be increas ingly im pelled not just to concern themselves w ith labours share o f the national incom e but to recognize the structural incom petence o f m anaged capitalism . It cannot be said that trade union leaders generally have yet seen this, but they are being increasingly hard-pressed by shop steward activity and unofficial strike action. It is to be expected that working-class participation in political and industrial action w ill increase, and will be increasingly class-conscious. T h e probability is that industrial action, o f which there is a lot already, w ill be seen to be fundam entally political, and so, w hether it takes the form o f participation in the form al political process or not, w ill am ount to increased political participation. So we have three w eak points in the vicious circle the in creasing awareness o f the costs o f economic growth, the increas ing awareness o f the costs o f political apathy, the increasing doubts about the ability o f corporate capitalism to meet con sumer expectations while reproducing inequality. A n d each o f these m ay be said to be contributing, in ways we have seen, to the possible attainm ent o f the prerequisite conditions for participatory dem ocracy: together, they conduce to a decline in consumer consciousness, a reduction o f class inequality, and an increase in present political participation. T h e prospects for a m ore dem ocratic society are thus not entirely bleak. T he

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m ove towards it will both require and encourage an increasing measure o f participation. A nd this now seems to be w ithin the realm o f the possible. Before leaving this discussion o f the possibility o f m oving to a participatory dem ocracy, I must emphasize that I have been looking only for possible, even barely possible, ways ahead. I have not attem pted to assess w hether the chances o f winning through are better or worse than 50/50. A nd when one thinks o f the forces opposed to such a change, one m ight hesitate to put the chances as high as 50/50. O ne need only think o f the power o f m ulti-national corporations; o f the probability o f the increasing penetration into home affairs o f secret intelligence agencies such as the Am erican C .I.A ., which have been al lowed or required by their governments to include in intel ligence such activities as organizing invasions o f some smaller countries and assisting in the overthrow o f disliked govern ments o f others; and o f the increasing use o f political terrorism by outraged minorities o f right and left, w ith the excuse they give governments o f m oving into the practices o f the police state, and even getting a large measure o f popular support for the police state. Against such forces can only be put the fact that liberal-dem ocratic governm ents are reluctant to use open force on a large scale, except for very short periods, against any w idely supported popular movements at hom e: under standably so, for by the time a governm ent feels the need to do this it m ay well be unable to count on the arm y and the police. A t a less im m ediately alarm ing level there are other factors w hich m ay prevent the requisite reduction o f class inequality. T h e advanced W estern economies m ay slow down to a sta tionary condition (where there is no econom ic grow th because no incentive to new capital formation) before popular pres sures have done m uch to get the present class inequalities reduced: this would make further reduction more difficult. A nd the m aintenance o f even the present W estern levels o f affluence w ould be impossible i f some o f the underdeveloped nations were able, by nuclear blackm ail or otherwise, to im pose a redistribution o f income between the rich and poor nations. Such a global redistribution w ould m ake still more

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difficult any significant reduction o f class inequality w ithin the affluent nations.8 I do not know o f enough em pirical evidence to enable one to judge the relative strength o f the forces in our present society m aking for, and those m aking against, a m ove to a more participatory dem ocracy. So m y exploration o f possible forces m aking for it is not to be taken, as a prophecy, but only as a glimpse o f possibilities.
MODELS OF P A R T I C I P A T O R Y DEMOCRACY

L et me turn finally to the question o f how a participatory dem ocracy m ight be run i f we did achieve the prerequisites. H ow participatory could it be, given that at any level beyond the neighbourhood it would have to be an indirect or representative system rather than face-to-face direct dem o cracy ? (i) Model 4A: an abstract first approximation I f one looks at the question first in general terms, setting aside for the present both the w eight o f tradition and the actual circumstances that m ight prevail in any country when the pre requisites had been sufficiently met, the simplest model that could properly be called a participatory dem ocracy would be a pyram idal system w ith direct dem ocracy at the base and dele gate dem ocracy at every level above that. Thus one would start w ith direct dem ocracy at the neighbourhood or factory level actual face-to-face discussion and decision by consensus or m ajority, and election o f delegates who would make up a council at the next more inclusive level, say a city borough or w ard or a township. T h e delegates would have to be sufficient ly instructed by and accountable to those who elected them to m ake decisions at the council level reasonably dem ocratic. So it would go on up to the top level, w hich would be a national council for matters o f national concern, and local and regional
8 Cf. Robert L. Heilbroner: An Inquiry into the Human Prospect, 2nd edn., New York, 1975, especially ch. 3, where it is argued that, for reasons such as these, the Western nations are unlikely to be able to keep up even their present degree of liberal democracy.

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councils for m atters o f less than national concern. A t w hatever level beyond the smallest prim ary one the final decisions on different matters were made, the issues w ould certainly have to be form ulated by a committee of the council. Thus at whatever level the reference up stopped, it would stop in effect with a small comm ittee o f that levels council. This m ay seem a far cry from dem ocratic control. But I think it is the best we can do. W h at is needed, at every stage, to make the system dem o cratic, is that the decision-makers and issue-formulators elected from below be held responsible to those below by being subject to re-election or even recall. N ow such a system, no m atter how clearly responsibilities are set out on paper, even if the paper is a formal national constitution, is no guarantee o f effective dem ocratic participa tion or control: the Soviet U nions dem ocratic centralism , w hich was just such a scheme, cannot be said to have provided the dem ocratic control that had been intended. T h e question is w hether such failure is inherent in the nature o f a pyram idal councils system. I think it is not. I suggest that we can identify the sets o f circum stances in w hich the system wont work as intended, that is, w ont provide adequate responsibility to those below, w on t be actively dem ocratic. Three such sets o f circum stances are evident. (1) A pyram idal system w ill not provide real responsibility o f the governm ent to all the levels below in an im m ediately post-revolutionary situation; at least it w ill not do so if the threat o f counter-revolution, w ith or w ithout foreign interven tion, is present. For in that case, dem ocratic control, with all its delays, has to give w ay to central authority. T h a t was the lesson o f the im m ediate afterm ath o f the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. A further lesson, to be draw n from the subsequent Soviet experience, is that, i f a revolution bites o ff more than it can chew dem ocratically, it will chew it undem ocratically. N ow since we do not seem likely, in the W estern liberal dem ocracies, to try to m ove to full dem ocracy b y w ay o f a Bolshevik revolution, this does not appear to be a difficulty for us. But we must notice that the threat o f counter-revolution is present not only after a Bolshevik revolution but also after a

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parliam entary revolution, i.e. a constitutional, electoral, take over o f power by a party or popular front pledged to a radical reform leading to the replacem ent o f capitalism. T h a t this threat m ay be real, and be fatal to a constitutional revolu tionary regim e which tries to proceed dem ocratically, is evident in the exam ple o f the counter-revolutionary overthrow o f the A llende regim e in C hile in 1973, after three years in office. W e have to ask, therefore, w hether the C hilean sequence could be repeated in any o f the more advanced W estern liberaldemocracies. C ould it happen in, say, Italy or France? I f it could, the chances o f participatory dem ocracy in any such country would be slim. T h ere is no certainty that it could not happen there. W e cannot rely on there being a longer habit o f constitutionalism in W estern Europe than in L atin A m erica: indeed, in those European liberal dem ocracies w hich are most likely to be in this situation in the forseeable future (e.g. Ita ly and France), the tradition o f constitutionalism cannot be said to be much older or firmer than in Chile. W e should, however, notice that A llen d es popular front coalition was in control o f only a part o f the executive power (the presidency, but not the contraloria, w hich had power to rule on the legality o f any executive action), and was in control o f none o f the legislative (including taxing) power. I f a similar governm ent elsewhere cam e into office w ith a stronger base it could proceed dem ocratically w ithout the same risk o f being overthrow n by counter revolution. (2) A nother circum stance in w hich a responsible pyram idal councils system w ould not w ork would be a reappearance o f an underlying class division and opposition. For, as we have seen, such division requires that the political system, in order to hold the society together, be able to perform the function o f con tinual compromise between class interests, and that function makes it impossible to have clear and strong lines o f responsi bility from the upper elected levels downwards. But this also is not as great a problem for us as it m ight seem. For i f m y earlier analysis is right, w e shall not have reached the possibility o f installing such a responsible system until we have greatly reduced the present social and econom ic inequalities.

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It is true that this will be possible only in the measure that the capital/labour relation that prevails in our society has been fundam entally changed, for capitalist relations produce and reproduce opposed classes. No am ount o f welfare-state redis tribution o f incom e will by itself change that relation. N or will any am ount o f workers participation or workers1 control at the shop-floor level or the plant level: that is a promising breakthrough point, but it w ill not do the whole job. A fully dem ocratic society requires dem ocratic political control over the uses to w hich the amassed capital and the rem aining natural resources o f the society are put. It probably does not m atter w hether this takes the form o f social ownership o f all capital, or a social control o f it so thorough as to be virtually the same as ownership. But more welfare-state redistribution o f the national income is not enough: no m atter how m uch it m ight reduce class inequalities o f income it would not touch class inequalities o f power. (3) A third circum stance in which the pyram idal council system would not w ork is, o f course, if the people at the base were apathetic. Such a system could not have been reached except b y a people who had thrown o ff their political apathy. B ut might not apathy grow again? There can be no guarantee that it would not. But at least the m ain factor w hich I have argued creates and sustains apathy in our present system w ould by hypothesis be absent or at least greatly modified I m ean the class structure w hich discourages the participation o f those in the lower strata by rendering it relatively ineffective, and w hich more generally discourages participation by requir in g such a blurring o f issues that governm ents cannot be held seriously responsible to the electorate. T o sum up the discussion so far o f the prospects o f a pyra m idal councils system as a model o f participatory dem ocracy, we m ay say that in the measure that the prerequisite condi tions for transition to a participatory system had been achieved in any W estern country, the most obvious impediments to a pyram idal councils scheme being genuinely dem ocratic would not be present. A pyram idal system m ight work. O r other impedim ents m ight emerge to prevent it being fully demo cratic. It is not worth pursuing these, for this simple model is

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too unrealistic. It can be nothing but a first approxim ation to a workable m odel, for it was reached by deliberately setting aside w hat must now be brought back into consideration the w eight o f tradition and the actual circumstances that are likely to prevail in any W estern nation at the time when the transi tion becam e possible. T h e most im portant factor here is the existence o f political parties. T h e simple model has no place for them. It envisages a no-party or one-party system. This was appropriate enough w hen such a m odel was put forward in the revolutionary cir cumstances o f m id-seventeenth-century England and early tw entieth-century Russia. But it is not appropriate for late twentieth-century W estern nations, for it seems unlikely that any o f them w ill m ove to the threshold o f participatory dem o cracy by w ay o f a one-party revolutionary take-over. It is m uch more likely that any such m ove will be m ade under the leadership o f a popular front or a coalition o f social-dem ocratic and socialist parties. Those parties w ill not wither away, at least not for some years. Unless all o f them but one are put down by force, several w ill still be around. T h e real question then is, w hether there is some w ay o f com bining a pyram idal council structure w ith a com petitive party system. (ii) Model 4B: a second approximation T h e com bination o f a pyram idal direct/indirect dem ocratic m achinery w ith a continuing party system seems essential. N othing but a pyram idal system w ill incorporate any direct dem ocracy into a nation-wide structure o f governm ent, and some significant am ount o f direct dem ocracy is required for anything that can be called participatory dem ocracy. A t the same time, com petitive political parties must be assumed to be in existence, parties whose claims cannot, consistently w ith anything that could be called a liberal dem ocracy, be over ridden. N ot only is the com bination o f pyram id and parties prob ably u n avo id ab le: it m ay be positively desirable. For even in a non-class-divided society there would still be issues around w hich parties m ight form, or even m ight be needed to allow issues to be effectively proposed and d eb a ted : issues such as the

Model 4:

Participatory Democracy

113

over-all allocation o f resources, environm ental and urban planning, population and im m igration policies, foreign policy, m ilitary policy.9 N ow supposing that a com petitive party sys tem were either unavoidable, or actually desirable, in a nonexploitive, non-class-divided society, could it be com bined w ith any kind o f pyram idal direct/indirect dem ocracy? I think it could. For the m ain functions w hich the com peti tive party system has had to perform,, and has performed, in class-divided societies up to now, i.e. the blurring o f class opposition and the continual arranging o f compromises or apparent compromises between the demands o f opposed classes, w ould no longer be required. A nd those are the features o f the com petitive party system w hich have m ade it up to now incom patible w ith any effective participatory dem ocracy. W ith that function no longer required, the incom patibility disappears. T h ere are, in abstract theory, two possibilities o f com bining a pyram idal organization with com peting parties. O ne, much the more difficult, and so unlikely as to deserve no attention here, would be to replace the existing W estern parliam entary or congressional/presidential structure o f governm ent by a soviet-type structure, (winch is conceivable even w ith two or more parties). T h e other, m uch less difficult, w ould be to keep the existing structure o f governm ent, and rely on the parties themselves to operate b y pyram idal participation. It is true, as I said earlier, that all the m any attempts made by dem ocratic reform movements and parties to make their leaders, when they becam e the governm ent, responsible to the rank-and-file,
9 It is worth n o ticin g that in Czechoslovakia, in the spring and summer of 1968 just before the overthrow of the reformist Communist Dubcek regime by the military intervention of the U .S.S.R ., one of the widely canvassed proposals for enhancing the democratic quality of the political system was the introduction of a competitive party system, and that this had substantial public support and even some support within the ruling Communist Party. In a July public opinion poll 25 per cent of the C.P. members polled, and 58 per cent of non-party persons polled, wanted one or more new parties; in an August poll, in which the question was put ambiguously, the figures were 16 per cent and 35 per cent. (H. Gordon Skilling: Czechoslovakia's Interrupted Revolution, Princeton University Press,

1976, pp. 55 ! > 356- 7 2-)

1 14

The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy

have failed. But the reason for those failures would no longer exist in the circumstances we are considering, or at least would not exist to anything like the same degree. T h e reason for those failures was that strict responsibility o f the party leadership to the membership does not allow the room for manoeuvre and compromise w hich a governm ent in a class-divided society must have in order to carry out its necessary function o f m edia ting between opposed class interests in the whole society. No doubt, even in a non-class-divided society, there would still have to be some room for compromise. But the am ount o f room needed for compromise on the sort o f issues that m ight then divide parties would not be o f the same order o f m agni tude as the am ount now required, and the element o f decep tion or concealm ent required to carry on the continual blurring o f class lines would not be present. It thus appears that there is a real possibility o f genuinely participatory parties, and that they could operate through a parliam entary or congressional structure to provide a substan tial measure o f participatory dem ocracy. This I think is as far as it is now feasible to go b y w ay o f a blueprint.
PARTICIPATORY LIBERAL DEMOCRACY AS

DEMOCRACY?

O ne question rem ains: can this model o f participatory dem o cracy be called a model o f liberal dem ocracy? I think it can. It is clearly not dictatorial or totalitarian. T h e guarantee o f this is not the existence o f alternative parties, for it is conceivable that after some decades they m ight wither aw ay, in conditions o f greater plenty and widespread opportunity for citizen parti cipation other than through political parties. In that case we should have m oved to M odel 4.A. T h e guarantee is rather in the presum ption that no version o f M odel 4 could come into existence or rem ain in existence w ithout a strong and w ide spread sense o f the value o f that liberal-dem ocratic ethical principle w hich was the heart o f M odel 2 the equal right o f every m an and w om an to the full developm ent and use o f his or her capabilities. A nd o f course the very possibility o f M od el 4 requires also, as argued in the second section o f this chapter,

Model 4:

Participatory Democracy

11 ^

a dow ngrading or abandonm ent o f m arket assumptions about the nature o f m an and society, a departure from the im age o f m an as m axim izing consumer, and a great reduction o f the present econom ic and social inequality. Those changes would make possible a restoration, even a realization, o f the central ethical principle o f M o d el 2; and they w ould not, for the reason given earlier,10 logically deny to a M odel 4 the descrip tion liberal. As long as there rem ained a strong sense o f the high value o f the equal right o f self-development, M odel 4 w ould be in the best tradition o f liberal dem ocracy.
10 A t the end of ch. I, pp. 21-2.

Further Reading

Those who w ant to get further into a subject like this, which is both analytical and historical, will generally find it more rewarding to go first to some o f the works o f the leading original writers rather than relying on even the best secondary accounts o f them, especially when, as is sometimes the case, the former are shorter than the latter. T o appreciate the enormously confident style o f the early nineteenth-century theorists o f liberal dem ocracy one could not do better than to look at James M ills famous article G overnm ent (written first for a supplem ent to the fifth edition o f the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1820 and reprinted m any times, usually as An Essay on Government), or a few pages o f Bentham either the b rief chapters o f his Principles o f the Civil Code cited above in ch. II, nn. 2, 7-12 , and 15-18, or the first few chapters o f his Introduction to the Principles o f Morals and Legislation. T h e classic statement o f M odel 2A is John Stuart M ills Considerations on Representative Government. T h e most elegant short presentation o f M odel 2B is A . D . L in dsays The Essentials o f Democracy. There is a useful account o f some further 2B theorists in ch. i o f Dennis F. Thom psons The Democratic Citizen^, London, C am bridge U niversity Press, 1970. T h e leading expositions o f M odel 3 are the works listed in nn. 1 and 2 o f ch. I V : the best are still Schum peters ch. 22 and D ah ls short Preface to Democratic Theory. T h e leading critiques o f M odel 3 are the works listed in n. 11 o f ch. I V : each o f the three collections o f essays cited there affords an excellent statement o f the case against M odel 3. M y short The Real World o f Democracy, and Essay 10 in m y Democratic Theory: Essays in Retrievaly put M odel 3 in an unflattering global perspective.

Further Reading

117

Realistic works on participatory dem ocracy are scarce. Its advocates incline sim ply to celebrate direct dem ocracy, often as a w ay towards an ideal anarchistic society (for exam ple in m any o f the essays in C, George Benello and Dimitrios Roussopoulos (eds.): The Case for Participatory Democracy: Some Prospects for a Radical Society, N ew York, Grossman, 19 7 1) But there are useful treatments in Carole Patem ans Participation and Democratic Theory and in the Nomos volum e Participation in Politics cited in n. 3 to ch. V . A n earlier volum e, also entitled Partici pation in Politics, edited by G eraint Parry (Manchester U niversity Press, 1972), has interesting essays on the possibility and desirability o f more participation, on the place o f partici pation in M arxian theory, and on the record in some Western and Com m unist and T h ird W orld countries.

Index

Abundance, Bentham on, 28-9 Allende, Salvador, 110 Almond, Gabriel A., 78 n. 1 American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, 94 n. 3 Angels, 82 Apathy, 88-9, 91, 94, 99, 102, 103, 106, 111 Aristotle, 9, 11, 12 n. x Aylmer, G. E., 14 n. 4 Bachrach, Peter, 83 n. 3, 84 n. 11, 85 n. 14 Ball, John, 13 Baratz, Morton S., 83 n. 3 Barg, M. A., 14 n. 4 Barker, Ernest, 48, 69, 71-2 Beer, M., 13 n. 2 Benello, C. George, 117 Bentham, Jeremy, io , 21, 39, 40, 42, 44> 47 > 5> his bourgeois assumptions, 33-4; his case for democracy, 34-7; his case for in equality, 30; his general theory, 24-34, 52> his understanding of capitalism, 49; on abundance, 28-9; on class differentials, 30; on franchise, 34.-7; on security of prop erty, 30-3; on subsistence, 27-8; on the poor, 28; on women, 35-6; on working class, 37, 42-3, 63 Berelson, Bernard R .} 78 n. i, 82, 85 n. 13, 88 n. 16 Blewett, Neal, 50 n. 6 Bourgeois assumptions: in Bentham, 33-4; in J. S. Mill, 53-6; see also Market assumptions Braverman, Harry, 104 n. 7 Burke, Edmund, 4, 20 Capitalism: changed condition of,

105-6; contradiction in, 105-6; inconsistent with equal self-development, 55-6, 62-3, 70; understand ing of: by Bentham and Jas. Mill, 49; by J. S. Mill, 53-6, 61-2; by later theorists, 49-50 Cartwright, Major John, 24 n, 1 Case, John, 104 n. 7 Central Intelligence Agency, 107 Chapman, J. W., 85 n. 14, 94 n. 3, 103 n. 6 Chartism, 45-6 Chile, 1 zo Ciompi, 13 Class: defined, 11; as criterion of types of society, 11-12; Benthams differential insensibility, 30; differ ential in political participation, 88, 94; recognition of: by Bentham and Jas. Mill, 49; b y j. S. Mill, 49, 567; by later theorists, 49, 70-2; see also Working class Class assumptions: of anti-democrats, 9-10; of igth-century liberal demo crats, 10-i 1, 28, 56-8; of 20thcentury liberal democrats, 71; of utopian democrats, 10 Class conflict: blurred by party sys tem, 65-9; effects of possible reemergence, I !0 -I 1 Class differentials: Bentham on, 30; in current participation, 88 n. 2 Class government: avoided, 64; J. S. Mills fear of, 56-8 Coates, Ken, 104 n. 7 Cobbett, William, 24 n. 1 Cole, G. D. H., 15 n. 7, 69 Committees, jog Community: movements, 93 n. 1, 103; sense of, 98, 99-100 Comte, Auguste, 3 Connolly, William, 84 n. 11

Index
Consumer sovereignty, 79-81, 84, 86-91 Copernicus, 3 Cost/benefit analysis, 102, 105-6 Czechoslovakia, 98, 113 n. 9 Dahl, Robert A., 15 n. 6, 78 n. 1, 81, 85 n. 14, 89 n. 18, 116 Democracy, liberal: see Liberal demo cracy Democracy,, pre-liberal; see Pre liberal democracy Democratic centralism, 109 Dewey, John, 5, 48, 69, 73-5 Diminishing utility, law of, 29; Bcnthams neglect of, 33 Economic growth: costs of, 102, 106; debatable, 97 Edinburgh Review, 41 Einstein, Albert, 3 Electronic direct democracy, 95-8 Elites, role of, 77-8, 90-1, 99 Encyclopedistes, 20 Equality: Bentham5 case for, 29, 32; s against, 30 Farr and, Max, 15 n. 6 Ferguson, Adam, 3 Four stages, law of, 3 France, 23, n o Franchise: as criterion of democracy, 23: 49~5 ; changes in, 23 , 49-50, 63; demand for reform of, 45-6, 63 n. 27; positions on: Bentham, 34-7; Jas. Mill, 37- 42 ; J- S. Mill, 57-60 Garson, G. D., 104 n. 7 Gross National Product, 43, 102 Hamburger, Joseph, 37 n. 29, 40 n. 36 Harrington, James, 12 Harrison, Royden, 63 n. 27 Heilbroner, Robert L., 108 n. 8 Hill, Christopher, 14 n. 4 Hobbes, Thomas, 4 Hobhouse, L. T., 5, 48, 69 Humboldt, Wilhelm von, 48 n. 5 Hunnius, Gerry, 104 n. 7 Inequality: Benthams case for, 30; possible reduction of, 107-8; reduc tion of as prerequisite of participa tory democracy, 100, 106, IIO-II Incremental change, 101 Invisible hand, 82 Italy, n o Jacquerie, 13 Jefferson, Thomas, 8, 11, 15, 17-19, 20, 24 Kalodner, Howard I., 93 n. 1 Kariel, Henry, 84 n. n Keynes, J. M., 92, 106 Ladd, John, 103 n. 6 Laski, H .J., 69 Lazarsfeld, Paul F., 78 n. 1, 82, 85 n. 13, 88 n. 16 Levellers, 14--15 Liberal democracy: market assump tions in, 1-2, 20-1; possible models of, 8-9, 114-15; two concepts of, 1-2 Liberal democratic theory, declining realism of, 49-50 Liberalism, linked to capitalism by assumption of scarcity, 21-2 Lindsay, A. D., 5, 48, 69, 70, 1 16 Lipset, Seymour Martin, 88 n. 16 Locke, John, 5, 20 Macaulay, T. B., 40 Machiavelli, N., 3, 11 Maclver, R. M., 48, 69, 72-3, 76 Madison, James, 15 n. 6 Man, images (models) of, 5; equi librium theorists model, 79, 85-6, 92; J. S. Mills model, 47, 48, 51, 60, 61; participatory theorys re quired model, 99, 115 Market assumptions, 1-2, 20-1, 76, 77-80, 82, 83, 87-91, 115 Marx, Karl, 3, 4, 11, 98, 100-1, 106 McCoy, Charles A., 83 n. 3, 84 n. r 1 McPhee, William N., 78 n. 1, 82, 85 n. 13, 88 n. 16 Milbrath, Lester W., 88 n. 16 Mill, James, 10, 21, 24-5, 44, 47, 50, 116* his understanding of capital ism, 49; on franchise, 37-42; on the rich, 42; on working class, 37, 42-3, Mill, John Stuart, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 41 100-1,. 106, 116; his acceptance of capitalism, 53-6, 61-2; his ambiguous definition of property, 53; his case for democracy, 51-2; his model of man, 47-8, 51, 60-1; his neglect of women in plural voting, 59; his recognition of class, 56-7; on class government, 56-8; on franchise, 57-60; on participa tion, 60,62; on plural voting, 57-9;
39 > 43 > 4 9 > 5 * 64 ~ 5 > 69 >

6 3

72,