01 Sep Great Idea: Democracy
There are many forms of government. There are aristocracies, oligarchies, monarchies, tyrannies and anarchies as just a few other models of governance over the body politic. So which is the best form of government? This is the primary question when thinking about the Great Idea of Democracy. Which form of government is the most fair, most efficient, most competent, most socially and economically just, least biased, least safe, least stable, least peaceful? These are the questions that plague anyone considering forms of governance and a logical place to begin about thinking of democracy.
But democracy is a “special” and distinct form of governance for one principal reason—the idea of natural rights—God given natural rights that every living person possesses prior to entering into any social contract to live within any form of governance. When one assumes that people and individual, God-given rights come before the necessity to form a secure, prosperous social organization at any level, then the very purpose of governance changes. When natural rights are assumed, then the primary purpose of government is to protect those rights. Now when asking which form of governance best protects and encourages natural rights, democratic governance (in all of its messiness, its potential for lawless mob rule and mediocrity) seems to go from last to first place. Or does it?
Outside of having a discussion about the pros and cons of various forms of governance (all of which impact the social fabric and thus cultural production), the other purpose of this chapter is to consider the advent of limited forms of democratic governance in Ancient Greece and how more democratic principles influence cultural values. One excellent way to trace the shifting of cultural values is to look at what a society considers “heroic.” Therefore, by examining shifting views of the hero in the ancient world—both before and after the advent of democracy—we can see how democratic principles help shape cultural values of what is considered heroic, or “best.”
Excerpt From: Dr. Chad Redwing. “Culture and Values of the Western World: Syntopical Course Guide.” Available for purchase at Kobo and iBookstore.